PBBM must shake up DA (2)

The Commission on Audit also had a share in the follies of the Department of Agriculture under Secretary Proceso Alcala and Ms. Ophelia P. Agawin, DA Assistant Secretary for Finance.

CoA chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan, in her eagerness to impress upon President Noynoy Aquino that she was implementing the straight path policy, issued CoA Circular 2011-001, dated 5 July 2011, inviting any private person or public official/employee to report to CoA through a formal or anonymous complaint any of its members who are receiving honoraria, allowances, bonuses or other emoluments as a form of fringe benefit or additional compensation from other government agencies.

A few days after the issuance of the aforesaid CoA circular, “a long streak of lightning flashed across the skies along Commonwealth Avenue” when 11 CoA state auditors reportedly received P40,000 each from the office of the assistant secretary of DA.

On 27 January 2012, a tabloid reportedly came out with the headline “DA strikes again, gives P40,000 each to 11 CoA auditors.”

“In a fashion similar to the celebrated P728 million fertilizer fund scam, the Department of Agriculture in defiance of law gifted the auditors of that department P440,000, plus groceries, on 21 December 2011. Realizing that information of their crime must have leaked and the foul smell of it has spread around the CoA compound, the auditors refunded the amount after New Year.”

The above case was a violation of CoA Circular 2011-001 dated 5 July 2011; of the Revised Administrative Code of 1987, and pertinent provisions of the General Appropriation Act of 2011, which provide among others that violations thereof (both receiver and giver) be subjected to both disciplinary and administrative sanctions, including dismissal after due process.

The people are asking:
1. Why did CoA not take disciplinary action against the auditors?
2. Why did CoA not investigate the source of the funds given to the auditors?
3. Why did CoA not take administrative sanctions against DA management?
4. Was the gift to the auditors intended to silence them from reporting on the alleged huge anomalies in DA?
It was not after 10 months that the Fraud Audit and Investigation Office of CoA acted. In its memorandum to the CoA chairperson dated 12 October 2012, the fraud audit unit reported:

“This pertains to the submitted sworn statement dated 27 September 2012, of Agawin, Assistant Secretary Finance, Department of Agriculture, relative to the above-mentioned subject in compliance with the Subpoena Duces Tecum dated 11 September 2012 to shed light as to the alleged receipt of unauthorized allowances or bonuses by CoA personnel in the DA.”

“In the said sworn statement, ASEC Agawin claimed that the subject allowance came from the CNA Incentive Bonus granted to officer/employees of said Department and all civil servants assigned thereat, including CoA personnel.”

“Ms. Agawin swore on 15 December 2022, she went to the DA-CoA Office to present to the CoA personnel said incentive bonus in recognition of their contribution to the realization of the savings resulting from the cost-cutting measures and systems improvement in DA.”

The report stated that the envelope containing the P413,000 incentive bonus was returned to the DA cashier on 11 January 2012.

“As to the alleged receipt of groceries, Ms. Agawin attested they were just tokens in the form of agricultural products given during the Christmas party as a gesture by the DA Secretary to all personnel working in the DA.”

The officials of the Department of Agriculture violated pertinent provisions of the Revised Administrative Code of 1987 and those of the General Appropriation Act of 2011, which provide among others, that violations thereof, both receiver and giver should be subjected to disciplinary and administrative sanction, including summary dismissal after due process.”

(To be continued)

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