The Office of the Ombudsman has found former Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala administratively liable for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service for the alleged misuse of P13.5 million for the construction of the Quezon Corn Trading and Processing Center (Center).
Since Alcala is no longer in government, the Ombudsman fined him an amount equivalent to his salary for one year.
Alcala was found administratively liable in two separate decisions. The first case involved the Isa Akong Magsasaka Foundation Inc., which sought accreditation with the Department of Agriculture (DA) on September 27, 2012 “in order to be part of the project implementation that will help the farmers in Quezon Province.”
In November of that year, Alcala allegedly certified that the foundation complied with the Commission on Audit’s requirements.
Alcala and the foundation’s president, Bautista Ella, signed a memorandum of agreement on February 11, 2013 “wherein the DA undertook to provide financial support…for the establishment of the Center.”
The Ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office (FIO) alleged that “Alcala authorized the DA to transfer P13.5 million for the construction of the center on a lot privately owned by the foundation’s president, contrary to the basic principle that public funds shall be used solely for a public purpose.”
Also, the FIO found that Laureano Arnulfo Mañalac, who allegedly “issued two official receipts from the Foundation acknowledging the receipt of the funds,” was Alcala’s head executive assistant and was supposedly an incorporator of the foundation.
Mañalac, according to the statement, was supposedly also the program director of Agri-Pinoy Trading Center-Project Management Office’s (APTC-PMO).
“Since Mañalac was an incorporator of the Foundation and given his functions as program director of the APTC program, the foundation would have been automatically disqualified from being granted any public funds from the program. Alcala’s claim that Mañalac resigned on 01 October 2012 is of no moment. When the foundation applied for accreditation, Mañalac was still Alcala’s HEA and was the program director of the APTC Program,” the Ombudsman said.
In the second case, Alcala was faulted for allowing the DA to resort to repeat order despite the agency’s failure to comply with the requirements under the procurement law.
According to the Ombudsman, records showed that former DA acting secretary Bernie Fondevilla awarded a contract on April 12, 2010 to Agricom through negotiated procurement for the delivery of 1,500 sets of pumps and engines for the agency’s Shallow Tube Well/Pump Irrigation System Open Source project worth P116 million.
“The Ombudsman faulted Alcala for resorting to Negotiated Procurement as there was only one failure of public bidding and for inviting only Agricom to attend the negotiated procurement proceedings despite the fact that a second bidder participated in the first public bidding,” a statement issued by the Ombudsman said.
“Alcala’s defense that he had no knowledge of the nature of the previous procurement; that he relied on the recommendation of the BAC (Bids and Awards Committee) and that he acted on the documents in the regular performance of his duties cannot be countenanced. Reliance in good faith on the recommendation of subordinates does not justify non-compliance with the law. As head of agency, much is expected of Alcala,” it added.