How to address corruption and incompetence in the DA

How to address corruption and incompetence in the DA

There are two main factors why we have not achieved true agriculture development: corruption and incompetence.

Because of corruption, a big chunk of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA’s ) already meager resources are wasted. The Commission on Audit reported that one-third of the DA budget was lost to unliquidated and unexplained expenses in the years 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Last Jan. 5, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. announced the restoration of an effective practice implemented by the Philippine Council of Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF). It requires regional executive directors (REDs) of the DA to provide the private sector-led regional agriculture and fisheries councils with a complete list of DA-funded projects. This transparency and accountability prevented and reduced corruption.


Corruption risk

Alyansa Agrikultura reported to the Secretary that after five weeks, several REDs had not complied with the order. Another order was sent, and total compliance was achieved as of Feb. 26. The delay indicates that corruption risk must be strictly monitored. On the second issue of competence, lack of it may cause even more harm than corruption. A business leader was asked: “If your house is burning, who do you prefer—an honest incompetent fireman, or a competent corrupt one?” The answer was expected.


DA employees are generally very competent. But if they follow directives from incompetent officials, performance will suffer.

Professor Peter Drucker once told us: “It is important to do things right. But it is more important [to] do the right things.” If we do things wrongly by being corrupt, progress will definitely suffer. But there will even be less progress if we follow the wrong direction.

We have been doing suboptimal resource distribution for years. We use 4 percent of our budget for poultry and livestock, which contribute 30 percent of our agriculture production value; and 1 percent for high value crops (HVCs), which contribute 18 percent of our value. Thailand and Vietnam funded their HVCs properly and look at where they are now.

It is time we change. First, there has been too little private sector involvement in our agriculture governance. Tiu Laurel is remedying this with significant private sector participation for a more competent 2025 budget formulation. PCAF will help in soliciting valuable input from three sectors: farmers and fisherfolk, agribusiness, and science and academe.

48 subsectors

One key input source is the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food, Inc. Since Danilo Fausto became its president in September 2018, he has admirably organized 48 agriculture subsectors, each with a successful champion, to recommend agriculture improvements. The champions can be harnessed to discuss each sector’s actual needs in small focused groups. This is a necessary addition to large group deliberations where budget recommendations are decided without the competent analysis done beforehand. Second, the private sector should be allowed to join the DA in explaining to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) certain key proposals. In the past, the DBM would cut DA budget items because these proposals were not explained well. Alyansa Agrikultura had proposed this before. Though the DBM agreed, the DA disagreed.

For example, the market management information and farmer consolidation and clustering components were downgraded for this year. The private sector believes this could have been avoided if they were given the chance to explain. Tiu Laurel is exercising strong political will in addressing the twin issues of corruption and incompetence. He says he will succeed only if he gets private sector involvement and participation.


The private sector must now respond with commitment if progress is to happen. INQ

The author is Agriwatch chair, former secretary of presidential flagship programs and projects, and former undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture and the

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