THE Department of Agriculture (DA) has resumed its practice of being a project conduit by nongovernment organizations (NGOs) after it was dragged into the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

But Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said that his office has tightened the accreditation of NGOs to ensure that they would not be used again by some corrupt officials and individuals.

He said his office temporarily did not allow the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to be coursed through the DA because he found the need to firm up the guidelines from July 10 to August 2012.

But Alcala said the DA later resumed the practice after he was advised that government "cannot simply refuse to be a project conduit since agriculture, livelihood and infrastructure projects are part of the Department of Budget and Management's menu."

While the controversy affected the reputation of real NGOs, Alcala said that it will not stop the DA from supporting rural-based organizations, in line with the prescribed process following President Benigno Aquino III's abolition of the PDAF.

"We cannot leave behind authentic NGOs such as cooperatives and farmers' and fisherfolk' groups," he said. "Ano pa ang saysay ng ating mga programa sa Kagawaran (ng Pagsasaka) kung hindi natin sila matutulungan?"

Alcala said the DA tried to ensure that they work out mechanisms to make the system – from accreditation, up to project implementation and completion – "scam-proof."

Last January, Alcala signed Administrative Order 1, which spelled out the revised guidelines for the accreditation of NGOs and the implementation and monitoring of its DA-supported projects.

Accreditation was the first step to take for NGOs or rural-based groups before they could pre-qualify to carry out any DA project. At this stage, the updated AO now requires six additional documentary requirements from project proponents, on top of the original seven, including the submission by NGO officers of current clearances from the National Bureau of Investigation and their respective barangays.

NGOs were also required to submit a certificate of registration with the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS). PhilGEPS refers to the central portal that hosts information on the procurement of goods and general support services, civil works or infrastructure projects and consulting services undertaken by procuring entities of the government.

During the pre-implementation stage, public bidding is now required in the procurement of materials or services to be used in the project, in keeping with Republic Act 9184 or the government procurement law. The old guidelines did not require for such provision.

Old safeguards remain, including the release funds in tranches, of up to four installments, based on liquidation and progress implementation of projects.

In support of the new AO, DA will also publish in national dailies and its website the full list of its accredited NGOs, highlighting the newly accredited ones, Alcala said.

At the time the pork barrel scandal surfaced, DA had 26 accredited NGOs, including the Kaupdanan Para sa Mangunguma Foundation Inc. (KPMFI), an alleged bogus NGO formed by suspected pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

Alcala reiterated that his office only acted in good faith when it accredited KPMFI to pre-qualify and eventually qualify for several livelihood projects. After all, he said, KPMFI submitted complete and orderly documentary requirements, including a certificate of good standing from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Alcala vowed to exert all means to hold KMFI officers accountable, as well as DA officials and employees that will be proven to have connived with the NGO. (SDR/Sunnex)