MANILA, Philippines – Legit or not? There must be a way to establish that.
The Aquino administration is looking at a possible accreditation system for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that will seek funding from lawmakers’ pork barrel.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad revealed this Thursday, July 25, in a #TalkThursday interview with Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, where he discussed, among other budget reforms, a tighter watch on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of senators and congressmen.
He said this is one of the needed reforms that the administration has identified after a whistleblower from an alleged public fund syndicate and news reports revealed a pork barrel scam.
The scam involves solons’ PDAFs being released by implementing agencies to bogus NGOs and foundations supposedly favored by the lawmakers. In exchange, the whistleblower said, the senators and congressmen get kickbacks from the NGOs.
In one government corporation alone, Rappler found at least 49 lawmakers releasing funds to 26 NGOs that state auditors had questioned from 2007 to 2011.
They cornered P1.35 billion worth of PDAF from the National Agri-Business Corporation, documents showed. Whistleblower Benhur Luy, however, said the syndicate headed by Janet Lim Napoles had gotten up to P10 billion of PDAFs through various agencies.
Abad acknowledged that in recent years NGOs and foundations have become a favorite recipient of PDAFs to implement projects.
In the past, while NGOs were allowed to avail themselves of lawmakers’ pork barrel, executive agencies and local government units were the logical PDAF recipients.
“I think there was no such accreditation in the past, because it was just recently we have this sudden interest in downloading projects [to] NGOs,” Abad said.
“So we have to have a system of accrediting these NGOs, so that we’re not dealing with fly-by-night NGOs but with legitimate NGOs with track record,” the budget chief added.
Right now, NGOs only register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to make its incorporation legal.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Abad said, would be best for the task of determining which NGOs and foundations are legitimate.
“We’re suggesting an agency like the DSWD be tasked to do that because, among all the other agencies, it’s the agency that really does a lot of interaction with NGOs,” he said.
The NGO community “is not a big community so you would know the personalities who would be involved,” he added.
Another safeguard for PDAF use that the administration is eyeing is a process of monitoring the implementation of the projects.
The current system, the budget secretary said, limits the Commission on Audit (COA) to looking into the project after it had been completed. As a result, it is not possible to raise red flags or withhold funds from the NGOs midway.
“Because they just do post-audit. So once the project is implemented and everything else, the money spent, then they come in and check…did the money go to the project, was the road built according to specifications? That’s where [COA auditors] come in,” Abad said.
Abad said Malacañang has “already studied the problem,” which explains why he could discuss a few proposed reforms to the PDAF use.
However, he said, they are also waiting for the results of the investigation, which President Benigno Aquino III tasked the National Bureau of Investigation, under the justice department, to conduct.
“The results of that investigation…will also guide the kinds of reforms” that the administration will initiate. “It may actually add to what we have in mind,” Abad said. – Rappler.com