A department for every problem

A department for every problem

If something isn’t running correctly, what do you do?

You create a department to deal with it. At least this seems to be a trend among policy makers. After the communication aspect was taken out of what used to be the Department of Transportation and Communications or DOTC, lawmakers are now promising to create two more new departments.

Creating a new executive department entails considerable expense. It will need at least one building for its main office, annexes and satellite offices nationwide as well as thousands of employees. Will a bigger bureaucracy translate into efficiency in managing a sector or particular issue? The track record of the government has not been encouraging.

With rapid developments in information and communication technology, it made sense to create a department devoted to ICT separate from the DOTC. The new department also absorbed the DOTC personnel and some of the resources in the communication aspect of the old department.

A Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development has also been set up, aiming to put under one roof all agencies involved in the provision of mass housing and, as the name implies, urban development. The new department is still waiting for the appointment of its head or secretary.

Other proposed new departments have hazy reasons for their creation. Is a separate department needed for Filipinos working overseas? The Department of Labor and Employment already has the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. Abroad, the DOLE and OWWA work with personnel of the Department of Foreign Affairs to deal with the concerns of OFWs.

The plan to create a Department of Disaster Resilience also needs careful study. Like the department of human settlements, the proposed department is also envisioned to have supervision over the bodies involved in disaster resilience. Building disaster resilience, however, covers all aspects of governance, with different types of expertise.

Policy makers have said the Philippine bureaucracy needs “rightsizing” – an acknowledgment that there’s fat and it needs trimming. What government agencies need is efficiency for optimal performance in public service. Bloating the bureaucracy is not the answer. And more layers of bureaucratic fat will be a burden that taxpayers don’t need.