COA: GMA rice program failed in N. Vizcaya
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–The national government’s rice program in the province has failed because of the supposed inability of the local government to fully implement the terms of its agreement with the Department of Agriculture, according to the Commission on Audit.
In its 2007 audit report, Julieta Mangulabnan, COA regional cluster director, said the GMA Rice Program and other activities of the provincial agriculture office collapsed because the province did not look closely into how the programs were being carried out.
The COA report particularly cited the GMA Rice Program that was granted to the province through the DA, in the form of four sets of hand tractors “with complete accessories” amounting to P206,000, that were supposed to be used by local rice farmers.
“The provincial government should (have) strictly (complied) with the terms and conditions as stipulated in the MOA by way of monitoring the proper utilization, operation and maintenance of the machinery/equipment,” the COA report said.
The DA has been in the middle of public criticism for its supposed failed agriculture programs like the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani, the components of which were embroiled in controversies including the P728-million fertilizer scam and the P2-billion swine program.
Under the memorandum of agreement entered into by Dr. Gumersindo Lasam, DA regional director, and Gov. Luisa Cuaresma, the Nueva Vizcaya government, as counterpart, pledged to provide a shed for the equipment, and to see to it that these were properly used, operated and maintained.
COA documents showed that four complete sets of hand tractors were purchased and delivered in January 2007, and were received by Felipe Panganiban, provincial agriculture officer.
However, when a COA audit team visited the provincial nursery, the equipment could not be found, the report noted.
“(The team) was informed that (the hand tractors) were borrowed by some farmers directly involved in the implementation of the GMA Rice Program of the province. However, no list of farmers to whom these equipment were issued was presented,” the COA said.
Due to the failure of the province to strictly comply with the MOA, the use of said machinery or equipment was not maximized to the fullest, and the purpose for the fund transfer was defeated, the report said.
The failure of the province to effectively implement the GMA Rice Program was aggravated by the diversion of about P1.5 million supposedly for grains modernization program, according to Board Member Patricio Dumlao Jr.
The amount, which was originally allotted for the purchase of hybrid seeds, was transferred to fund supposed “farm-to-market roads”, but was actually used to buy a bulldozer for Kasibu town.
“This are exactly the reasons why we are having this present rice shortage. It is preposterous that the funds for items which were supposed to be the highest in the priority list in our rice programs were being re-aligned to buy heavy equipment instead,” he said.
The province has already spent around P20 million for bulldozers and other equipment which, Dumlao said, were not fully utilized because these had bogged down after only months of usage, and have since been left to rot at the depot of the provincial capitol here.
This reporter tried to seek for comment Cuaresma and Panganiban at their offices on Friday but members of their staff they were in Diadi town for a meeting.