A private sector group yesterday asked the Ministry of Agriculture (DA) to explain its alleged “misuse” of some 46.48 billion pesos of public funds, stressing that it owed such an explanation to the intended beneficiaries of the funds. funds and other stakeholders. The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI), an advisory body recognized by the DA, said it made the appeal in a letter to Agriculture Secretary William Dar earlier this month after the publication of the audit report of the Audit Commission (COA) on the agency.
The PCAFI statement came as the DA sought more funding for next year. He initially requested 250 billion pesos, but this was eventually reduced to 72 billion pesos under the proposed national spending program of 5.2 trillion pesos for 2021. billions of dollars of unused funds were returned to the government. Treasury and about 17.54 billion pesos have not been liquidated. Also in the report were the 2.19 billion pesos from the uncommitted Bayanihan fund; 9.4 billion pesos in âsuspensions, refusals and unpaid chargesâ; 2.07 billion pesos in a âquestionableâ fertilizer program; 1.05 billion pesos of contracts that do not comply with DA guidelines.
DA spokesman Noel Reyes said most of the gaps in the use of DA’s budget were due to health protocols and travel restrictions which made it difficult to enforce the submission of documents related to the DA. the audit.
“We want to clarify that based on the COA’s initial findings, there was no indication that DA funds had been misappropriated or that there had been any illegal, irregular, unnecessary and unreasonable transactions, or extravagant spending,” he said. he declared.
In the meantime, the PCAFI has stated that “we are working very hard to help increase the DA budget and these COA findings will greatly jeopardize our efforts to generate additional resources for our agricultural sector.” “We would like to seek clarification and explanation from your office on some of the main highlights of the COA’s findings,” the group told Dar in the letter.
PCAFI is made up of 48 agricultural groups.
More than the COA’s findings, the group also pointed out the inaccuracy of the agency’s farmer database, leniency in the declaration of farmer-beneficiaries in its master list, overpayment in reimbursement of claims fertilizer and DA supply contracts.
The Ministry of Budget and Management submitted last month the draft national budget of 5.0 trillion pesos for 2022. Of which, only 72 billion pesos were intended for the DA.
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