The computer age has not only brought promise but also challenges among local governments in the Philippines. When not used as part of a larger strategy, computers become expensive and glorified typewriters. But when used strategically, computers become a wise investment for LGUs. Information technology can not only help store and access data but also control critical functions—and thereby help to stop graft and corruption. Cebu's tax computerization program is an example of information technology strategically utilized.
An age-old problem in tax collection is graft and inefficiency. To address these problems, the Cebu government in 1986 began to create its own computer program for both tax assessment and collection. This automated process has helped the city government to fire its former assessor and two staff members due to corruption. It also has eliminated opportunities for further anomalous practices. Cebu City's software takes inputs of the physical characteristics and location of properties to automatically appraise real estate values and calculate the tax due. Of 130,000 such computer assessments made so far, only 200 or 1/100th of one percent were noted by the city assessor for further review.
The benefits for citizens and the city are impressive. By automating assessment, the city government has minimized graft and made tax payments faster and more predictable for citizens. By increasing its assessment and collection efficiency, the city projects it will increase its tax receipts by at least 100 million pesos in 1994. This increase is inspite of reduced tax rates to more realistic market values.
Other local jurisdictions are eager to replicate Cebu's success. The city has begun to be consultants to other LGUs on taxation and is converting its software for use on microcomputers by smaller municipalities without mainframe computer hardware.
This program is recognized as one of the Ten Outstanding Programs in the 1994 Galing Pook Awards.