Department of Agriculture

COA questions DA for P9.8-billion unspent funds, wrong farmers’ lists

Ralf Rivas
COA questions DA for P9.8-billion unspent funds, wrong farmers’ lists

Farmers start planting palay in Naic, Cavite on Saturday, March 20, 2021, as the government weather bureau PAGASA predicts the approach of the dry season. Rappler.com

The Commission on Audit flags the Department of Agriculture for billions of unobligated funds, failed biddings, and duplicated names in the farmers' master list

The Commission on Audit (COA) flagged the Department of Agriculture (DA) for failing to spend over P9.8 billion in its allocations, committing accounting errors, and accumulating unliquidated expenses amounting to P17.5 billion.

In its annual audit report, COA said that the DA was unable to utilize 16.6% of its P59-billion cash allocation for 2020, leading to the agency returning P9.8 billion to the national treasury instead of using it for programs intended for farmers.

Of the attached agencies, regional offices, and programs, the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP), which secures farms-to-market links, failed to spend almost P4 billion and posted the lowest cash utilization rate at 60%.

PRDP told COA it was unable to spend the amount due to excessive downloading of funds by support offices to regional coordinating offices, slow disbursements, and non-submission of billing statements and documents for processing of claims.

The DA was also unable to spend P4.4 billion due to failed biddings in the procurement of fertilizers under the rice resiliency project (RRP).

The RRP is under the DA’s plant, plant, plant program, which aims to distribute seeds and fertilizers for free to rice farmers to boost production.

The audit report also revealed that the DA had unobligated funds amounting to P2.2 billion under Bayanihan I and II due to delays in procurement processes and non-implementation of projects.

Of the amount, P35.8 million intended for the RRP was not used due to the unavailability of inbred certified seeds. 

Failed biddings were also cited as reason for the DA’s failure to spend funds.

COA recommended that the DA “plan and strategize” better for timely implementation of projects “especially during this time of pandemic.”

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Unliquidated funds, delayed projects

COA also flagged unliquidated fund transfers amounting to P17.5 billion (equivalent to 82.9%) to agencies, local government units (LGUs), government-controlled corporations, and non-governmental organizations in 2020.

COA also emphasized that the DA was unable to properly liquidate P20.2 billion in 2019.

The audit report also revealed that the DA’s Agricultural Training Institute, and its regional offices in Northern Mindanao and Soccsksargen failed to observe laws in emergency purchases amounting to P11.6 million.

DA Northern Mindanao procured goods and catering services amounting to P11.6 million through small value procurement instead of competitive public bidding. It also failed to post documents on the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System or PhilGEPS.

COA also found that 67 projects – funded through official development assistance amounting to P2.2 billion – are already beyond the target date of completion and have delayed benefits for recipients.

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Wrong farmers’ list

The annual audit report also revealed “laxity” in reporting of farmer beneficiaries.

COA found 7,146 duplicate names submitted by the DA to the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), resulting in the over-remittance of financial subsidies and food assistance amounting to P35.8 million.

It also found that 1,317 farmer beneficiaries who have claimed P3,000 in financial assistance amounting to P3.95 million were not included in the master list submitted by the DA to the DBP.

“The Audit Team opined that although there is no double release of assistance to the double listed beneficiaries, the payroll submitted to the bank was overstated, and the doubly listed beneficiaries could have been replaced with eligible and qualified beneficiaries,” COA said.

COA told the DA to thoroughly check the master list of beneficiaries before submitting it and to determine the extent of liability of personnel responsible for the over-remittance.

A similar leniency in reporting was also found in the financial subsidy for rice farmers, causing the over-remittance of payroll of 6,912 beneficiaries.

COA asked the DA to explain why names were reported two or three times in the list of beneficiaries.

Moreover, COA said that due to the doubling of names in the master list, thousands of farmers were likely bumped off and were unable to receive cash during the pandemic. – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.