NATIONAL Food Authority (NFA) officials on Wednesday said the agency had lost some P280 million because of the irregularities committed by some employees, 38 of whom are now facing charges before the Office of the Ombudsman and various courts.
NFA Administrator Orlan Calayag, who assumed his post only in January, said they are running after corrupt NFA personnel as part of their campaign to rid the agency of misfits.
“These are all in line with my campaign for good governance, because I am convinced that fighting corruption within the agency is one of the best ways to ensure the steady supply of cheap but high quality rice in the market,” he said.
It was learned that a number of NFA personnel who are facing administrative as well as criminal charges are stock accountable officers such as warehousemen.
Calayag withheld the names of the erring employees.
He has directed the agency’s Legal Affairs Department to ensure that those involved are punished accordingly, especially those who have cheated the NFA for years but were not punished by the previous NFA leaderships.
Last February, a Senate joint panel recommended that the Ombudsman investigate former NFA administrator Lito Banayo and other officials in connection with the alleged use of NFA licensed rice importers as dummies by certain importers who cornered rice import quotas worth millions.
The inquiry, conducted by the committees on agriculture, ways and means, trade and commerce, and on the accountability of public officers, “found that there is sufficient basis to conclude that financiers are behind the anomalous transactions, and the testimony and documents obtained in the hearings establish without a doubt that these financiers exist and have employed dummies to rig the bidding process.”
Calayag explained that while his primary mandate is to ensure the stable supply of rice in the market, he is also at the forefront of the battle against corruption because he wants the NFA to become one of the model agencies that follows the “straight path” doctrine of the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
He vowed reforms and changes to improve the agency’s procurement system and promote accountability among its officials and employees.
Among these moves are standardizing the contracts involving services rendered by the private sector to the agency pursuant to the RA 9184 otherwise known as Government Procurement Reform Act.
Calayag said they discovered that there were improper use of discretion by some Regional Bids and Awards Committee in awarding contracts entered into by different regions that tend to favor only some contractors, resulting in the losses in millions of pesos on the part of the government.
The NFA chief said among the services that are susceptible to misdeed are milling, handling, trucking, shipping and security, leasing of warehouses, leasing of mechanical dryers, infrastructure with emphasis on constructing new warehouse as well as in the purchase of various chemicals and products.
In May, the agency announced it had bought 2,286,624 bags of palay for the month of April alone, which was 212.02 percent more than the month’s target of 1,078,500 bags.
Calayag expressed optimism that the trend will continue through the main harvest from October to December.
The NFA has been exceeding its monthly targets. From January to April, the agency had already bought 4,790,645 bags of palay or 130.90 percent more than its procurement target of 3,659,700 bags for the period.