The Department of Agriculture (DA) has blamed the restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic for its unspent ₱9.8-billion cash allocation for farmers around the country last year.
“The root cause of the unobligated amount is due to the pandemic. Activities were discontinued and there were difficulties in implementation due to health protocols and travel restrictions. Further, there was failure of biddings due to sudden price increases brought about by the pandemic,” DA Secretary William Dar explained.
“In all, we want to clarify that from the initial COA findings, there was nothing that would indicate that the DA funds were misused or there were illegal, irregular, unnecessary, and unconscionable transactions, or extravagant expenses made,” Dar stressed.
Dar was responding to the request of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) to explain the latest findings of the Commission on Audit (COA), particularly on the ₱4.553-billion unobligated amount, ₱9.896-billion “returned budget” and ₱17.542-billion unliquidated fund.
“On the ₱4.55-billion unobligated amount, this includes balances under the Bayanihan II funds of ₱2.8 billion in December 2020. Considering that the funds under Bayanihan II were released between last week of October until the early part of December, the amount was extended per RA 11519 and 11520. As of Aug. 15, 2021, we have already obligated ₱3.7 billion,” the secretary said.
The ₱9.896-billion returned budget is “mainly due to the restrictions and health protocols brought about by the pandemic” while around ₱4.1 billion is attributed to the “failure of bidding in the procurement of seeds, fertilizers, and other inputs, and conduct of planned activities.”
Dar further said that only ₱5.9 billion out of the ₱9.8-billion unspent fund was reverted to the National Treasury, “as the NCA of said amount came late and lapsed.”
“But the DA immediately requested from the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) the same amount for release in the 1st quarter of 2021, which the DBM favorably acted upon. Hence, the fund was used for planned projects that were implemented in 2021,” Dar added.
The remaining ₱3.9 billion, Dar explained, represents the loan proceeds of the World Bank-funded Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP), which is a continuing initiative, and thus the fund was utilized in 2021 for respective planned PRDP projects.
The Agriculture secretary also said that much of the ₱17.54-billion “non-liquidated fund” has been liquidated in 2021.
“We continue to adhere strictly to the requirement that liquidation reports must be supported with duly signed original documents, but due to health protocols and travel restrictions, there were difficulties encountered in enforcing the submission, even as the DA was never remiss in sending demand letters,” Dar said.