SEC lacks manpower, tech to catch bogus NGOs

Rappler.com
After explosive tales of billions stolen from public funds in the Napoles pork barrel scam it’s time to spot the loopholes, plug the leaks and fix the system.

'NOT ALL.' Securities and Exchange Commission Chairperson Teresita Herbosa admits her agency can't monitor all NGOs, saying it needs more manpower and a computer registration system. Rappler photo

MANILA, Philippines – After explosive tales of billions stolen from public funds in the Napoles pork barrel scam it’s time to spot the loopholes, plug the leaks and fix the system.

But Ayee Macaraig reports, the country’s regulating body is helpless in stopping fake non-governmental organizations.

JANET LIM NAPOLES, ALLEGED PORK BARREL SCAM MASTERMIND: Hindi ko alam. (I don’t know.)

BENHUR LUY, WHISTLEBLOWER: Sir, nagsisinungaling po siya. Totoo po iyon. (Sir, she’s lying. It’s true.)

After all the drama, the Senate moves on from the telenovela starring alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles and her former aides to government policy. How did NGOs with the same incorporators get past government agencies for years and bag multi-million peso projects?

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairperson Teresita Herbosa says her agency has a basic problem.

TERESITA HERBOSA, SEC CHAIRPERSON: We don’t have resources to monitor all organizations. We have only 8 processors in our corporate governance department to go over all those 10,000 active foundations, 20,000 overall.

TEOFISTO GUINGONA III, CHAIRMAN, SENATE BLUE RIBBON COMMITTEE: That’s really a challenge. That’s the meat of the problem. As we’ve seen, anybody can submit pieces of paper and duly received.

Herbosa says the SEC is proud of its database of NGOs that the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Commission on Audit use in their investigations. The problem? It’s not yet online.

TERESITA HERBOSA, SEC CHAIRPERSON: We will admit that had we had sufficient resources including computer-assisted review, we will detect fraud at first instance of registration.

The Philippine Council for NGO Certification, a self-regulatory body certifying NGOs, says there’s a need to integrate the different accreditation systems.

AUGUSTO CARPIO, PCNC CHAIRMAN: The government accredits NGOs, we accredit NGOs but what is the real standard? Does it have the same value? That’s something to look at.

Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman TG Guingona says the Senate will look into requiring accreditation for all NGOs transacting with the government. He adds a bigger budget is needed for the SEC.

But Commission on Audit Chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan is going beyond the pork barrel scam to address another anomaly: unliquidated cash advances. Tan says COA will file a case against government officials and agencies for failing to liquidate billions of pesos for as long as 15 years.

GRACE TAN, COA CHAIRPERSON: We have a provision in law, of criminal law that when somebody is given a cash advance and is not able to liquidate that within the prescribed period and upon demand, there is already a presumption in law that that money was malversed.

TEOFISTO GUINGONA III, CHAIRMAN, SENATE BLUE RIBBON COMMITTEE: Certainly very revealing.

Guingona says the Senate investigation is not yet over and will next focus on the Malampaya fund scam.

There are no dramatic confrontations in today’s hearing. But senators say it’s important to plug gaps to prevent another Napoles scam. While the pork barrel is no more, there’s no shortage of people wanting to take advantage of flaws in the system to make big money.
Ayee Macaraig, Rappler, Manila. – Rappler.com