‘Unqualified corn farmers got fuel discount cards’ -- COA

There were 25,163 corn farmers who received fuel discount cards from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), but were unqualified to do so since they are not included in the master list of the Bureau of Agricultural and Fisheries Engineering (BAFE).


In its 2022 audit report on the Department of Agriculture (DA), COA said the names of the unqualified farmers were not included in the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Management Information System (ABEMIS) maintained by BAFE.


It pointed out that under DA Memorandum Circular No. 29 issued in 2022, farmer organizations including farmers with farm machinery in the corn clustered areas should be enrolled as program beneficiaries for fuel discount cards, and they should be included in the ABEMIS master list.


It said the coverage of the fuel discount has been expanded to include all agricultural commodities, and it covers all farm machinery with attached engines that are being used for crop production as well as motorized banca.


DA’s regional field offices (RFOs) are responsible for submitting the master list of recipients and their corresponding machinery to BAFE, which will then update the ABEMIS, COA said.


But since there were thousands of corn farmer-beneficiaries who were not included in the master list of ABEMIS, COA questioned the credibility of the list.


"The inclusion of the 25,163 corn farmers in the master list submitted to DBM for the issuance of fuel discount cards but not found in the ABEMIS file maintained by the BAFE casts doubt on the accuracy of the master list and whether said farmer-beneficiaries own farm machinery with attached engine that is being used for crop production," it said.


Thus, COA asked DA’s RFOs to strictly enforce the provisions of their circular to avoid the inclusion of unqualified beneficiaries.


It said that DA’s central office asserted that some of the names in the master list from the RFOs were included even without the corresponding ABEMIS number in order to expedite the process of providing fuel assistance to corn farmers.


But COA said that while fuel assistance should be acted upon with dispatch “to relieve farmers from surging fuel prices, compliance with the rules and regulations should be followed."