The proliferation of fake Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs) used to authorize releases from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) emphasizes the importance of hiring the right people in government or anywhere.
I’ll never get tired of saying this. No system however good would be fully corruption-proof if there are dishonest people running it.
In this case four congressional staff members were found to be in possession of 12 fake SAROs, which allow a government agency to bid out the projects, including those funded by PDAF. Based on the SARO, the Department of Budget and Management would issue a Notice of Cash Allocation releasing funds for particular projects.
The Commission on Audit found the fake SAROs on Emmanuel Raza, a staffer of Zamboanga City Rep. Lilia Nuño, Mary Anne Castillo, from the office of Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco and two others working for Rep. Baby Alfonso-Vargas.
The principals or employers of these staff members said they didn’t know the SAROs were fake; if their people were indeed doing something illegal, they themselves (House representatives) had no part in it.
Is this enough?
Senators and congressmen are responsible for the people who work in their offices, and they should hire the right people, meaning honest and competent people.
Unfortunately, honest, competent people are hard to find. And the honest and competent people don’t always stay so after being exposed to the many opportunities for corruption in government, in this case the pork barrel pelf of Congress.
The point is, you cannot just wash your hands and absolve yourself of any accountability for what your staff members do because you hired them and they work for you. In the same manner, you have to scrutinize the papers that they have you sign and those that go through your office. That’s your responsibility. Ignorance is no excuse.
Of course, the DBM and other implementing government agencies are just as accountable. The staff members cannot accomplish these scams on their own. Just like Janet Napoles, they must have accomplices in other key government agencies. They had to know more than a few people on the inside.
As Bayan Muna party-list Representative Neri Colmenares said, there could be a syndicate behind the issuance of fake release orders.
“To facilitate such schemes, there must be a conspiracy between various offices and first persons,” Colmenares, who is also the House Deputy Minority Leader, told this paper.
Alliance of Concerned Teachers’ Antonio Tinio said the DBM has long been remiss in disbursing SAROs, citing a 2011 Commission on Audit (COA) report that there are 3,158 SAROs, which are unaccounted for.
“In such a situation, you can imagine that it would be easy to fake these SAROs if the DBM itself cannot keep track of SAROs that it issues. The ultimate responsibility is with the DBM, particularly the secretary,” Tinio said, referring to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.
True. But the House Representatives cannot also just wash their hands completely and say their staff members did it.
They already know that the pork barrel process is ripe with opportunities for corruption so they have to exert every earnest effort to look after their projects and policies concerning their allocations.
It’s not the problem of implementing agencies alone, or the DBM alone, or their staff alone most certainly.
Legislators must not only be straight in allocating the PDAF. They must also make sure their own people are straight too and that the money is allocated and implemented properly.
They can’t just say the kickbacks and other kinds of corruption happened without their knowledge and consent. If these things can happen right under your nose then what kind of government official or public servant are you?
Thankfully, the PDAF is banished from Congress once and for all (well, hopefully too).