September 19, 2023

No irregularities in the Department of Agriculture

Agriculture Secretary William Dar tells farmers department officials ‘do not and will not tolerate corruption’

On Thursday, August 19, Agriculture Secretary William Dar assured farmers and other industry players that he does not tolerate corruption, as the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged billions of pesos of unspent and unliquidated funds in his department.

The COA questioned the Ministry of Agriculture (DA) for failing to spend more than 9.8 billion pesos in its allocations, making accounting errors and accumulating unliquidated expenses amounting to 17.5 billion pesos .

Dar said the DA received the COA report last July 2 and is still consolidating information from the offices and units involved.

“We still have until September 2, 2021 to satisfy the COA observations with our categorical responses,” Dar said in a Viber message to reporters.

“We assure our customers – farmers, fishers, herders and agribusiness – and our partners in the private sector, local authorities and international funding institutions, as well as the general public that we, the family OneDA, do not and will not tolerate bribery, as we attempt to comply with all government accounting and auditing procedures and requirements, and continually pursue our planned programs and initiatives to increase the productivity and revenue of farmers and fishers, and achieving food security and resilience in the Philippines.”

In its annual audit report, the COA said the DA was unable to use 16.6% of its cash allocation of 59 billion pesos for 2020, leading the agency to return 9.8 billion pesos to the national treasury instead of using them for programs for farmers.

The audit report also showed that the DA had uncommitted funds amounting to P2.2 billion under the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act and the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, also known as of Bayanihan 1 and Bayanihan 2, due to delays in the procurement process and non-implementation of the projects.

The COA also reported unliquidated remittances and cash advances of 17.5 billion pesos – or 82.9% – to agencies, local government units, government-controlled corporations and non-governmental organizations in 2020.

“Allowing cash advances to remain unliquidated for an extended period of time exposes agency funds to possible misuse and probable loss of supporting documentation, which would make liquidation much more difficult,” the commission said.

The COA found 7,146 duplicate names submitted by the DA to the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), resulting in an overpayment of cash grants and food aid amounting to 35.8 million pesos .

It also found that 1,317 beneficiary farmers who claimed 3,000 pesos in financial assistance amounting to 3.95 million pesos were not included in the master list submitted by the DA to the DBP.

Although the COA noted that the errors did not result in double releases of funds, the overestimation likely led to farmers being pushed out of the cash assistance program amid the pandemic. –