The government is developing an online payment system, or PhPay, that will enable the public to pay for government transactions through online payment channels. This will make payment to the government faster, easier and more convenient, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) announced yesterday.

Some 63 representatives from 22 government agencies attended the orientation and demonstration of PhPay, which was held last Thursday at the ICT Office. The objective of the orientation was to discuss the procedural and technical details of the system, as well as what would be required from agencies adopting the system.

“The system will accept payment from the citizens through online transactions,” said Jops Josef, Component Team Lead for Systems Integration of the Integrated Government Philippines (iGovPhil) Project that is developing the system. “What it offers is convenience to citizens and government agencies. It also lessens the opportunity for graft and corruption as it eliminates face-to-face contact and promote transparency on payments made to the government.”

Through the system, clients availing of services from a government agency may pay through the various payment channels. These payment channels would include credit cards, online banking, bank and non-bank over-the-counter payments, mobile banking, and rural banks, among others. This will be possible through private payment aggregator companies that will be part of PhPay.

The Bureau of Treasury (BTr) will play a critical role in PhPay, as it will function as the single-government merchant in the whole electronic payment process. “When we look at the whole government payment process, each agency is required to deposit payments to BTr at the end of each transaction day. Through PhPay, we’ve made it simpler by removing this process for the agency and let the payment go directly to the BTr,” Josef said.

Agencies need not worry how it will track payments made through PhPay for its services, as agency cashiers and accountants will be given access to PhPay for accounting and reporting requirements. BTr and COA will also be given access accounts for auditing and reconciliation purposes.

Participating agencies will greatly benefit from PhPay as they would no longer need to talk to the different companies offering online payments and paying a set-up fee for each one. By simply enlisting their services for online payment on PhPay, they would already have all the payment channels offered by the payment aggregators available to their clientele.

A convenience fee will be collected for each online transaction. “Right now, we’re looking at around 20-40 pesos per transaction. This could still go lower once we have agreed on the engagement terms with the payment aggregators. But this is very minimal considering the trade-off that a citizen will get from paying online versus paying at the agency itself – a citizen will not spend for fares or gas and parking fees, and food. Paying online will also save the citizens time for not falling in line.”

From the agencies that attended, the iGovPhil Project will be selecting agencies to be part of the pilot implementation in December 2013. The system is expected to go live and ready to accept other agencies by March 2014. Most of the questions asked by the invited participants during the event focused on the processes as they believe that the system is a welcome initiative to improve the payment process in the government.

Paquita dela Cruz, OIC of the Land Transportation Office’s Management Information Division, said “This comes at a right time as we are beginning to rationalize our processes. But I think we cannot adopt the system completely because there are charges that are complicated. However, PhPay is fit for fixed rate transactions. We may have to implement it in phases.”

Rommel Alegado, Information Analyst at the Office of the Ombudsman, said his agency has no need for PhPay at this time because all their services are free. “But we may adopt it in the near future as there are plans for the Ombudsman to charge for some of its services, like issuance of clearances, filing of cases, and mediation.”

PhPay, along with the other shared services and applications of the iGovPhil Project, is one of the steps being taken by the government to promote online transactions. The end goal of which is to have all government processes online in order to improve the delivery of services to the citizenry. But it will be up to the agencies to implement change management procedures within their offices to integrate these technologies and systems to achieve this.

The iGovPhil is a joint project of the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) and Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) – attached agencies of the DOST – that aims to improve government operations through the development of infrastructures and applications that simplify and hasten the delivery of goods and services to the public.