CoA says Agri dep’t failed to spend P9.8 billion

GOVERNMENT AUDITORS said the Department of Agriculture (DA) left about P9.8 billion unused in 2020 due to bid failures, incomplete procurement documentation, and the difficulties encountered in moving projects forward due to the pandemic.

The Commission on Audit (CoA) said the Department of Agriculture (DA) disbursed P49.25 billion or 83.4% of its P59.06-billion budget, with the balance of P9.8 billion reverting to the Treasury.

In its audit report for 2020 made public on July 13, CoA said many cases of underutilized budgets were due to the failure to submit to local government units billing statements and documents required to process claims, and slow fund disbursement of funds.

It noted quarantine constraints impeding work at the DA head office, the Philippine Rural Development Project and Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Engineering.

Lapses were also found in DA regional offices due to delayed or failed procurement exercises, documentary shortcomings to effect payment from local government units or farmers, inadequate planning, and adverse weather particularly in the Soccsksargen region.

DA offices disbursed P588.05 million or 83.9% of theirs P700.73-million allocation for the Provision of Agricultural Equipment and Facilities program, which is part of a broader effort to make rice cultivation more competitive.

Auditors found “deficiencies” worth P82.15 million in the DA’s Ilocos Region field office, such as partial delivery of machinery in violation of contract terms, non-submission of memoranda of agreement and supporting documents covering spending items, and requests for changes in delivery locations stipulated in the contract.

“Due to the above deficiencies, the expected benefits from the projects, activities, programs funded from the government funds were not fully realized to the disadvantage of the intended beneficiaries,” CoA reported.

Auditors recommended that the DA “plan and strategize to ensure timely implementation of programs and projects” to provide benefits and services to concerned sectors especially during the time of pandemic.

They also recommended that DA agencies maximize the use of disbursements and stay compliant with government budgeting rules. CoA urged the agencies to keep stakeholders informed of the documentary requirements to participate in government programs.

DA Spokesman Noel O. Reyes said via text message Wednesday that the COA has given the department 60 days from receipt of the report — June 30 — to respond to the findings.

“We have until Aug. 29 to make the reply. We are in the process of crafting the updates,” he added. — Russell Louis C. Ku with Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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