Private sector vs agriculture corruption | Inquirer Business
Commentary

Private sector vs agriculture corruption

/ 02:00 AM September 23, 2022

T o prevent corruption at the Department of Agriculture (DA), the private sector must be involved in monitoring the agency’s budget. A similar structure was put up in the past, succeeded, but then abolished. Sans the private sector in the picture, the DA budget for 2020 resulted in P22 billion worth of unliquidated and questionable expenses per a Commission on Audit report.

Last Sept. 13, the Alyansa Agrikultura (AA) brought up the corruption issue with senior DA officials. The group identified corrupt practices and the alleged people involved. This was after the AA executive committee unanimously agreed last Aug. 27 to transmit a letter to the Senate agriculture committee asking for an investigation into the DA’s unliquidated and questionable expenses. If the Napoles pork barrel scam involving P10 billion in public funds stolen over 10 years was investigated, surely the whereabouts of the P22 billion unaccounted for in the DA’s one-year budget deserves equal scrutiny.

ADVERTISEMENT

The emphasis is not to focus on the past, but to learn from the past to prevent future corruption. It is critical not only because of our food crisis, but also because the DA is getting a 40-percent budget increase to P164 billion for 2023. It would be a disaster if DA funds needed for food security and rural poverty alleviation through agriculture productivity are lost to massive corruption.

Before there was a joint public-private DA budget monitoring (led by AA president Arsenio Tanchuling), the public-private Agriculture and Fisheries Councils (AFCs) in the regional, provincial and municipal areas did not know what DA-funded projects were present in their areas.

FEATURED STORIES

The first step was to require the local DA units to give a list of the projects in their respective areas for the local AFCs to monitor. These AFCs would be supported by national public-private AFC teams that would travel to the provinces and assist in reporting the findings to the DA head office. Penalties and corrective action could then be taken against erring DA local officials.

Where private sector monitoring of DA funded projects was done, there was general compliance. Where it was absent, there were several reports of corruption. These included “ghost” projects and fund misuse. Overpriced agriculture machinery were also left idle.

Though consequent penalties did not materialize as much as desired, agriculture personnel knew about the watchful eye from the private sector. Consequently, they were more careful about budget use.

But when private sector participation was terminated, so was the practice of local AFCs having access to the list of projects in their respective areas. The undesirable DA personnel figured that “happy days are here again.” Corruption once again flourished.

The AA has been asking for the restoration of this public-private budget monitoring system. Agriculture needs that these funds be properly used to enable us to compete in a global free trade environment. It is one of the critical conditions that AA says are needed before the country’s accession to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

It requests the industry and service sectors not to turn a blind eye to agriculture injustices. These sectors should support the agriculture’s plea for antismuggling, quarantine and food and safety measures.

In an Aug. 26 meeting of the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries, it was stated that the public-private budget monitoring system would be restored. But there is no schedule yet, nor is there a directive to give the list of DA-funded projects to AFCs.

ADVERTISEMENT

There is a saying, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” In the same manner, “if it works well, why abolish it?” We need not answer the obvious. It is now time to restore private sector participation in monitoring the DA budget.

The author is Agriwatch chair, former secretary of presidential flagship programs and projects, and former undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry. Contact is [email protected]

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Agriculture, Corruption
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.


© Copyright 1997-2022 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.