The Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) plans to ask for expanded powers so it can investigate and punish violators of the Ease of Doing Business Law, instead of just issuing warnings.

ARTA said it will make recommendations to Congress, explaining that its enforcement of the law has been limited to monitoring, evaluation, and issuing warnings.

In a press release on Friday, ARTA said that non-compliance with the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018 – the law against bureaucratic red tape – should be punishable, either administratively or criminally.

“While the directive to comply uses the word ‘shall’ which connotes mandatory action, the absence of administrative or criminal sanction dilutes the complying power of ARTA to enforce its mandate,” it said.

ARTA proposed that it be given subpoena and contempt powers, and be deputized to formally investigate violations.

It also asked that its recommendations to streamline government agency processes be made mandatory.

“Making ARTA’s findings on suggested changes in the different agencies’ processes mandatory for implementation will definitely solve a lot of red tape problems. The real lasting solution is enforced streamlining and not just a mere recommendation,” ARTA Director General Jeremiah B. Belgica said.

ARTA also sought to require government agencies to allocate a percentage of their budgets for an Ease of Doing Business plan.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte last week asked Congress to amend the Ease of Doing Business law. But senators instead proposed additional legislation that will give the president powers to suspend government bureaucratic requirements and shorten required processing times.

“With the news of a possible grant of anti-red tape emergency powers to the President during this state of national emergency, the Council also approved the anti-red tape emergency powers that could be granted to the President during a state of emergency,” ARTA said.

ARTA’s recommendations were approved by the Ease of Doing Business and Anti-Red Tape Advisory Council, which includes Mr. Belgica as well as the Trade, Finance, Information and Communications technology, and Local Government secretaries, along with private sector representatives. —  Jenina P. Ibañez