MANILA -- The National Food Authority (NFA) will create a group tasked to investigate alleged anomalies in rice importations of the previous government.

NFA Administrator Lito Banayo said the major objective of the team is to probe whether the past administration imported excessive amount of rice.

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It will also deal with NFA's purchase and importation protocols, inventory system to prevent waste and spoilage of stocks, methods and procedures of selling stock, and allegations of smuggling anomalies.

The group will check whether the NFA is performing its mandate on helping the poorest of the poor, maintain stable supply and buffer stock, maintain stability of prices, recommend remedial actions that requires presidential or department of agriculture interventions, and recommend medium and long term legislative actions.

The audit team will be headed by Jesus Posadas who was a former vice president for purchasing and trading of San Miguel Corporation.

Banayo said they chose an individual from the private sector to avoid biases, citing Posadas’s vast experience in trading and commodities.

They will also tap the services of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Department of Justice (DOJ).

The NFA expects results and recommendations within 30 to 45 days.

Banayo maintained that there was excessive importations of rice during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, saying he even postponed the shipment of imported rice from Vietnam due to oversupply of rice in NFA warehouses.

The NFA administrator admitted that there was no sufficient evidence to charge those responsible for the alleged over importation.

But he assured that the audit team will be able to collate proofs, and cases will be ascribed against the culprits.

Earlier, former Agriculture secretary Arthur Yap said that over importation is impossible since the process is decided by collegial body and undergo through a meticulous process.

Banayo explained that the data of rice supply comes solely from Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), therefore the decisions of other departments might be appropriate depending on supplied statistics.

“I don’t want to judge my predecessor. I don’t want to judge previous officials of the Arroyo administration. But the figures speak for themselves,” he said.

Banayo also failed to enumerate warehouses where there are reported spoiled stocks, saying that such will also be the task of the systems audit team.

Due to over importation, the debt of NFA swelled to P177 billion as of June 30, 2010.

The NFA official admitted that the agency cannot pay its entire debts at the reign of President Benigno Aquino III but assured that they could at least lessen it.

Former Pagcor chief too

Meanwhile, San Juan City lawmaker Joseph Victor "JV" Ejercito wanted investigations for Efraim Genuino, former chief of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor), for the alleged proliferation of anomalous transactions during his term.

“There is an urgent need for a lifestyle checks on former chairman Genuino and his men and an in-depth auditing of Pagcor under the previous administration,” said Ejercito.

“Going after former President Gloria Arroyo's bagman and his involvement in anomalous issues as chairman of Pagcor is a crucial step towards ending corruption in the agency,” Ejercito added.

The son of former President Joseph Estrada said he supports the Aquino government's proposal to privatize Pagcor since it could put a stop in the corruption of the agency.

Aquino earlier appointed Jorge Sarmiento as chief operating officer and Bong Naguit as the new chairman of the gaming firm.

The lawmaker added that the probe is in line with the administration's battle against corruption, particularly with the recent discovery of the P21-million purchase of cheeseburgers and chicken meals from a popular fastfood chain.

It was discovered that Genuino issued a check amounting to P21.119 million, two days before his term expired on June 30.

Lawyer Jay Santiago, Pagcor spokesperson, said the amount is too huge to be paid-for in advance by a single person if the allegation is true.

Santiago also questioned the certified documents made on the issuance of the check used for the payment, saying that such were dated June 29 while Genuino exited Pagcor on June 28.

National Capital Region Police Office Chief Roberto Rosales admitted they had received food provision from the Pagcor but said he had no idea how much was spent for it. (Jill Beltran/Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)