By Vann Marlo M. Villegas

THE country’s anti-red tape agency has ordered all government bodies to approve pending applications before March 7 or face sanctions for inefficiency.

The Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) issued on Feb. 14 a memo directing agencies of the National Government and local units to list all pending transactions and approve them automatically.

The regulator also ordered all agencies to report any actions they would take to comply with the memorandum.

“The Authority shall conduct a random post-audit to verify your compliance with this circular starting March 7, 2020,” according to a copy of the memo announced yesterday.

The regulator also asked all public offices to strictly enforce the processing periods prescribed by their charters.

But processing for simple transactions must not exceed three working days and seven days for complex transactions, according to a 2018 law that guarantees ease of doing business and efficient government service.

Highly technical applications must be processed within 20 days, the law that also created the ARTA says.

ARTA Director General Jeremiah B. Belgica said agency heads and their handling officers face administrative and criminal charges if they fail to act on applications.

“We need to make our government agencies realize that the law is here and there are no more excuses for their slow processes and inefficiencies,” he said in a briefing at the ARTA office in Makati City.

“We have given them time and options and now, we can no longer tolerate sub-par service,” he added.

Mr. Belgica noted that out of 4,667 government agencies, only 1,726 had submitted their charters for review.

The regulator, he added, was also coordinating with the Interior and Local Government department because a number of red tape incidents happen in local units.

The Office of the Solicitor General would represent the ARTA when cases are filed against government officials, he added.

Greco Antonious Beda B. Belgica, spokesman of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission and brother of the ARTA chief, said violators would be charged. They may also be sacked from office.

“We are now reinforcing the approach against red tape and corruption,” he said.

Agencies mentioned by President Rodrigo R. Duterte — the Social Security System, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Land Transportation Office, Land Registration Authority and Pag-IBIG Fund — will be prioritized for audit, according to the ARTA’s director general.