• Six DA officials axed over fund misuse

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    Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales axed at least six Department of Agriculture (DA) officials in connection with the misuse of Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

    The officials, who belong to the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Unit 7 (Central Visayas), include: Regional Executive Director Larry Nacionales, Accountant III Candelaria Martinez, Officer-in-Charge Mira Talabong, Accounting Section Chief Mae Nones, and Monitoring Staff Roger Salcedo. They were fired after being found guilty of gross misconduct in connection with the anomalous implementation of agricultural projects in the fourth district of Negros Occidental funded by Estrada’s PDAF.

    The Ombudsman argued the six officials committed the offense as shown by the Commission on Audit findings stating non-delivery of the farm inputs and farm implements, falsified certifications for the equipment, simulated bidding, and equipment and products grossly overpriced by as much as P14.2 million for the P20.5 million Diversified Farm Assistance for Negros Occidental Agri-Producers—a proposal prepared and approved by Estrada.

    Moreover, the freight, shipping, trucking and delivery expenses amounting to P1 million were without factual and legal basis, and the actual recipients of the liquid fertilizers could not be determined since the master list bearing the signatures of farmers did not indicate the quantity received by them.

    Estrada requested Nacionales to implement the agricultural projects with JCB Foundation as non-government organization project implementor.

    “There is gross inexcusable negligence when they merely signed the Certifications, Accomplishment Reports and disbursement vouchers as well as record the transactions in the books of Agricultural department’s regional office when they very well know they should have conducted periodic monitoring and evaluation on the project as well as verified and checked the documents submitted by JCB,” Morales, a retired Supreme Court justice, said in the decision.

    The project involved the acquisition of 28 units of hand tractors, 28 units of rice threshers, 56 units of power sprayers, and 5,000 bottles of Nobac Urban Organic Enzyme and Microbial Decomposition Activator, including their freight, shipment and delivery costs.

    The supplier for the agricultural equipment and JCB Foundation had the same address.

    Aside from their dismissal, Ombudsman Morales slapped the sacked officials accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, perpetual disqualification from holding public office, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and prohibition from taking civil service examinations.

    Estrada has been in detention since June last year over a pending P183-million plunder charge for allegedly funneling his PDAF to bogus non-government entities in exchange of kickbacks.

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