MANILA — The trade department said Monday that that all public funds with its attached firm were "all accounted for", after some senators flagged around P33 billion in supposed "parked" funds.
The mandate of the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) is to procure for government agencies, a process that undergoes "very strict procedure" that sometimes takes a year due to technical specification and evaluation, said Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.
"In the meantime, si PITC, hindi naman po siya nagpa-park ng pera; iyan po ay naka-escrow iyong pera na iyan. At ang nangyayari naman po, kapag tapos na ang bidding ay doon po parang may payment kaagad," he said in a public briefing.
(The PITC does not park funds; rather, the funds are in escrow. And after the bidding, the payment is released immediately.)
"Ngayon kung nagpi-fail bidding, iyon naman hong budget na iyon ay binabalik din sa National Treasury. So in effect, wala po talagang natitira na pera sa PITC dahil po all are accounted for," he added.
(Now if the bidding fails, the budget is returned to the National Treasury. So in effect, there are no funds left with the PITC because these are all accounted for.)
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said earlier Monday he suspected some P33 billion in government funds were "parked" in PITC.
Government agencies tap the PITC when they are supposed to purchase goods and products, "and pass on the budget there so that they will say it is already obligated when in truth and fact it is just deposited," he said.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto last week raised a possible delay in the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines if the government will not reconsider its decision to course the purchase through PITC.
The Commission on Audit has instructed PITC to return funding of several projects which it failed to disburse over the years, Recto said during budget debates in the Senate.
"We have a concern with the track record of PITC," Recto said.
"Ang daming pending with PITC on bidding… In effect it circumvents the budget, and if it's not delivered, hindi napapakinabangan ng taumbayan yan... I think it’s bad budgeting practice," he said.
(The PITC has a lot of pending items on bidding... In effect it circumvents the budget, and if it's not delivered, the public would not benefit from it... I think it’s bad budgeting practice.)
The PITC's records are complete and will be submitted to senators and state auditors, said Lopez.
"Wala pong perang ‘ika nga nawawala," he said.
(There are no so-called lost funds.)