Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) slammed the Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar for mishandling public funds meant for Filipino farmers. The peasant group said that the Commission on Audit (COA) report revealed up to P34.449 billion worth of DA funds lacked “complete accounting records,” and had “accounting errors/omissions.”
“Farmers repeatedly face crop failures and income losses due to the dumping of imports, militarist lockdowns, and extreme climate, yet Dar mishandles the already paltry agriculture budget. Mahigit kalahati ng pondo, kulang-kulang ang dokumento! Red flag yan!” KMP National Chairperson Danilo Ramos says.
The COA report on DA stated that it found “various accounting errors/omissions amounting to ₱2,087.408 million… and accounting deficiencies such as the absence of subsidiary ledgers and lack of complete accounting records on 379 accounts with an aggregate amount of ₱32,362.002 million.” Totaling P34.45 billion, this amount is 56.66% of the department’s P60.8 billion allotment. “It is now upon the DA to prove that no corruption, plunder, or any other irregularity occurred with the disbursement of this P34 billion. Sino kaya ang nakinabang sa bilyon-bilyong pondong ito?” Ramos asked.
KMP further pointed out that, according to the COA report, P9.8 billion or 17% of DA’s total P59.1 billion cash allocation was unused and hence reverted back to the National Treasury. “This amount could have benefitted more than 980,000 farmers with P10,000 cash aid, which we have been clamoring for since March last year. Napakakuripot ng gobyernong ito sa maralitang magsasaka,” Ramos commented.
The audit report further stated that P2.2 billion of DA’s COVID funds from Bayanihan 1 and 2 remained unobligated, while another P2.2 billion in 67 foreign-assisted subprojects supposedly to benefit farmers were overdue.
On the other hand, the peasant group added that up to P3.4 billion of various ayuda for farmers were found to be non-compliant and/or overpaid.
The COA report states that “procurement contracts amounting to ₱2,075.653 million of nine DA Offices were processed, approved and awarded to various suppliers/consultants/contractors despite lacking supporting documents required.” It further noted that P1.02 billion in “seeds, fertilizers, livestock and feeds in seven DA offices… were not compliant” with the DA’s own memoranda. The distributions were done despite the absence of master lists of beneficiaries, and lack of acknowledgment and/or official receipts, among other enumerated deficiencies.
Meanwhile, a total of P250.53 million were reportedly “overpaid” or “overremitted” to farmer beneficiaries under the Rice Resiliency Project-Rice Farmers Fertilizer Program (RRP-RFFA), Cash and Food Subsidy to Marginalized Farmers and Fisherfolks (CFSMFF), and Financial Subsidy for Rice Farmers (FSRF) programs. The audit report cited as reasons the payment to 61,950 unqualified beneficiaries, the double/triple reporting of a total of 14,058 beneficiaries, and the “incorrect” pricing of goods such as fertilizers, among others.
“These cases of so-called overpayment of ayuda are highly questionable and should be investigated, …” Ramos says.
COA observed that the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA), which the DA relies on in aid distribution, is unreliable. “The accuracy of the farmers’ data base could not be relied upon due to the assignment of multiple RSBSA numbers to a single farmer beneficiary and /or the assignment of RSBSA number to two or more farmer beneficiaries,” the report stated. It further noted that “8,210 RSBSA numbers were issued to two or more farmer beneficiaries.” Single RSBSA registry numbers were designated to two individual farmers to up to as many as 563 such as in Sultan Kudarat.
Unliquidated fund transfers
Up to P17.56 billion of DA’s fund transfers were also unliquidated in 2020. The COA report stated that P17.54 billion, or almost all (83%) of the department’s fund transfers to national government agencies, local government units, government-owned and controlled corporations, and non-government organizations; and P13.8 million of fund transfers for office supplies and equipment “were not liquidated,” contrary to COA’s circulars.
The report also noted that P20.2 billion and P153.82 million fund transfers to DA’s various implementing agencies and for office supplies, respectively, remained unliquidated from previous years.