DA ‘screens NGOs’-A A +A
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
NON-GOVERNMENT organizations (NGOs) that accept projects funded by the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) are screened thoroughly before a project is awarded to them, the agriculture department assured.
The process of identifying NGOs to receive public funds for projects is under scrutiny, following allegations that billions went to ghost projects or to legislators whose PDAF shares were used.
But for the Coalition Against the Pork Barrel System (CAPBS), the government needs to abolish all kinds of pork barrel funds, including discretionary funds of the President.
The group is organizing a rally on Sept. 29, for which they hope to get a crowd of 8,000. The activity will start with a mass in Fuente Osmeña, then a march to the Senior Citizens Park near Cebu City Hall.
A special audit by the Commission on Audit (COA) showed that in 2007 to 2009, about P189 million from the PDAF of seven Cebuanos in the House of Representatives went to nine NGOs.
The largest share went to the Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation, Inc. (KKAMFI), which received a total of P49.12 million from three legislators in Cebu.
Like the other eight NGOs, KKAMFI was picked to receive the pork barrel by three government-owned and controlled corporations.
The heads of these government corporations were among the 38 people charged with plunder or malversation last Monday by the Department of Justice.
Interviewed in Cebu yesterday, DA 7 Information Officer Merilyn Talagon said it is their agency that chooses the NGOs that will implement the projects charged to the PDAF.
It goes through a strict selection process, she said, which entails an evaluation of the project proposals and the credentials of the NGO.
“It goes through a process. Their proposals are evaluated and a sector evaluates if the NGO is capable of undertaking the project,” Talagon said.
At the DA 7, there are different teams or sectors that review project proposals, depending on the type of project.
There are separate sectors for infrastructure projects, purchase of machinery or farm implements, purchase of seedlings and livestock, among others.
The sectors then submit recommendations to the DA regional director before a particular project is awarded to an NGO.
As required by the COA, the NGO also has to be accredited by an accreditation committee composed of DA officials.
In a phone interview last Monday night, former congressman Antonio Cuenco of Cebu City’s south district said he did not have a hand in identifying the NGOs that benefitted from his PDAF.
He said he had left it to the DA to decide which NGO will implement the projects requested by barangay captains in his district.
According to the special audit report of COA, some P54 million of Cuenco’s PDAF from 2007 to 2009 went to NGOs, which was coursed through the Technology Resource Center (TRC) and the National Agribusiness Corp. (NABCOR).
The TRC and NABCOR are government-owned and controlled corporations attached to the Department of Science and Technology and the DA, respectively.
The COA report also said that it was irregular for more than 80 NGOs to receive pork barrel funds in those three years.
These had not been selected in competitive biddings, the report said. They could not be located in the address they had given the government and failed to submit to inspections that would have shown whether their projects succeeded.
COA recommended that the implementing agencies make sure the NGOs they selected comply with government rules on procurement, because the funds transferred to them “retain their character as public funds.”
Agencies also need to “blacklist NGOs for submitting questionable documents” or failing to effectively implement projects and liquidate the funds assigned to them, the COA report said.
Amid questions about the pork barrel, CAPBS Convenor Marc Canton and Dr. Rowena Burden said they are confident that they can gather at least 100,000 signatures in Cebu.
Speaking before the 888 News Forum at Marco Polo Plaza, Burden said the signatures will be submitted to the national coalition.
The group, in a unity statement supported by Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, said they want people to be able to participate in the preparation of the annual budgets for both national and local governments.
They also want lawmakers who are charged in court for misusing their pork barrel to step down and, if convicted, to give the funds back.
“We are happy with the turnout of the previous protest against the pork barrel. Our group now is not only a coalition against the pork barrel system but against corruption in general,” Burden said.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 18, 2013.