As President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Romualdez Marcos Jr. ordered line agencies to bring critical government services closer to Filipinos through digital transformation initiatives, government agencies were cautioned to only transact with credible entities that provide sound and secure solutions and clean track records.
Former PBA Partylist Representative Jericho Nograles called on line departments and their sub-agencies to double down on conducting due diligence on potential contractors and partners to ensure that Filipinos are not on the losing end, especially as the government continues to strengthen digital transformation efforts.
In fully supporting the goal of President Marcos to transform the Philippines into a more digital nation, Nograles said a whole of government approach must be adopted to make sure that digital services are not only safe and secure, but also convenient and affordable to many Pinoys.
“The accelerated digital transformation requires the government to be more prudent and thorough in conducting due diligence on its potential partners. The government must ensure that the contractors and partners that it takes in are credible and have a clean track record that proves their capability to bring essential and critical government services closer to Filipinos,” Nograles said.
Nograles noted that he was particularly wary of agencies that contract out digital transaction services to fintech players and digital banks, since they have monetary repercussions and they involve personal data.
“The government must adapt to the demands of the new normal, but it also has to be careful in choosing its fintech partners. While there are a lot of credible players in the Philippines, there are also those that have proven that they are out to overcharge consumers for personal gain,” Nograles said.
During his stint as a lawmaker in the last Congress, Nograles dealt with fintech companies and line agencies that by-passed required procurement processes and charged hefty prices to Filipino consumers.
In November 2021, Nograles led the Congressional inquiry on the irregular contract between the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) and PisoPay, a fintech startup that focuses on remittance and money transfer transactions.
To recall, BOQ contracted PisoPay to help the agency in the issuance of International Certificate of Vaccination (ICV), or what is commonly referred to as the “yellow card,” which was a requirement for outgoing overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Filipinos requesting for yellow cards must shell out P370 for a copy, of which P70 goes to PisoPay, a service fee deemed irregular as other government agencies only charge P30.
During the series of congressional inquiries, Nograles and other lawmakers revealed that PisoPay did not undergo the required bidding process and that PisoPay’s net financial capacity was incapable of entering contracts with the government.
This led to the BOQ dropping its contract with PisoPay.
“The PisoPay-BOQ fiasco was a disservice to the Filipino people. We should not let this happen again and that is why I am calling on government agencies to be more cautious. President Bongbong Marcos was clear in his vision of an agile bureaucracy through a digital Philippines. We must ensure that we are attaining that goal by ensuring that Filipinos are not at the losing end of the bargain,” Nograles said.