COA finds anomalies in pork barrel spending-A A +A
Saturday, August 17, 2013
GHOST recipients, excessive allocations, lack of public bidding and release of money to a non-congressman were among the irregularities found by the Commission on Audit (COA) in the use of pork barrel funds from 2007 to 2009.
In a 462-page report released on Friday, the agency said 74 lawmakers who endorsed projects had corresponding releases ranging from P71 million to P3.068 billion.
Normally, a congressman receives P70 million while a senator gets P200 million in priority development assistance fund (PDAF) each year.
Former Compostela Valley representative Manuel “Way Kurat” Zamora topped the list, cornering P3 billion intended for infrastructure projects that are not necessarily for his district.
Zamora, known for his simple lifestyle while he was in the House of Representatives, was not alone in this practice.
Former Cebu City representative Antonio Cuenco channeled P3.88 million for a project in Cebu province while ex-House Speaker Prospero Nograles from Davao City aided various local government units such as Bataan, Mandaluyong and Taguig.
“This, in a way, deprived the legislators’ constituents from receiving the benefits to be derived from such projects,” said COA, which took two years to complete the report.
The audit showed 12 senators and 180 congressmen earmarked P6.156 billion in pork barrel to 82 non-government organizations (NGOs).
Of this amount, P2.157 billion went to 10 NGOs linked to alleged PDAF scam mastermind Janet Napoles, owner of trading firm JLN Corp.
Some NGOs could not be located or traced in a mere shanty or high-end residential areas without NGO signage, submitted questionable documents and used P123 million to pay for salaries and other administrative expenses.
Around P1.53 billion of funds transferred to 55 NGOs remained unliquidated while six legislators and/or their relatives are incorporators of PDAF recipients.
“The contracts, in a number of instances, were also awarded to suppliers identified by the legislator and/or of questionable legal and physical existence,” the report stated, adding many projects were overpriced and constructed on private lots with some beneficiaries culled from the list of board passers.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) could also not explain why a certain Luis Abalos, who is not a congressman, was able to get pork barrel allocation.
“The releases were essentially at the behest of the sponsoring legislator. The agencies merely relied on endorsement of legislators. The money was given to the agencies and the agencies gave it to the NGOs,” said COA Chairperson Grace Tan, debunking legislators’ claim that their participation is only limited to the identification of projects.
Covered by the special audit were the Departments of Agriculture, Public Works and Highways and Social Welfare and Development, four state corporations, five provincial governments (Tarlac, Bataan, Nueva Ecija, Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental) and nine city governments (Manila, Mandaluyong, Quezon, Taguig, Las Piñas, Iriga, Naga and Panabo).
These LGUs and departments were selected since lawmakers spent the most of their PDAF there.
To avoid future abuses, COA listed recommendations such as adhering to allocation for each lawmaker, blacklisting all NGOs found submitting questionable documents and not implementing the projects, requiring NGOs to be audited by COA, limiting legislators’ participation to PDAF project identification and spending the money within their congressional districts or respective sectors.
Reports of Napoles’ alleged misdeeds re-ignited calls to abolish the pork barrel system, which has been a source of corruption for some politicians.
But President Benigno Aquino III, a former Tarlac congressman, was cold to the proposal, saying he used his PDAF to finance a road project which the national government seemed to have neglected.
He instead ordered a thorough investigation into the alleged fund mess. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had said erring lawmakers will face cases soon. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)