NFA: Gov't lost P20-B to overpriced rice imports

By Angelo Gutierrez, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Jan 14 2011 12:01 PM | Updated as of Jan 15 2011 12:43 AM

MANILA, Philippines - National Food Authority Administrator Lito Banayo said Friday that he has requested Malacañang to investigate ranking government officials who may be involved in the overpricing of rice imports during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Banayo told ANC's Headstart that based on a "no-holds barred" audit of a private group, the government lost P20 billion in overpriced rice importation contracts for the last 10 years.

Banayo said that based on an audit conducted by a group commissioned by the NFA, the overpriced rice imports for the last 10 years totaled to about P20 billion.

He said that the audit group also found out that rice imports for the last 3 years were overpriced by $125 per metric ton, which covers 83% of the total amount of overprice.

"One hundred twenty five dollars per metric ton. This is the findings of the auditor. That dwarfs the smaller overprice the last seven years prior to it," he said.

He said that the audit was conducted on orders of President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III. He added that the NFA decided to commission private groups to do the audit to avoid being accused of bias.

He said the report was based on 3 to 4 inches thick documents submitted by NFA personnel to the private auditing group.

Banayo said that he presented the audit report to President Aquino on Thursday night in the presence of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and the administration's economic managers.

"The documents are in the hands of Malacañang. The legal team will review all the date to ascertain [if there is] a strong case," he said.

He said he has recommended to the economic managers and the presidential legal team to start looking at the possible involvement in the scam of "superiors" of low-ranking NFA and Department of Agriculture (DA) officials.

"Ang ganoong kalaki na mga overpricing ay hindi kaya ng ordinary bureaucrat o isang ahensya ng pamahalaan. Sabi ko sa Pangulo ar economic managers, saliksikin dapat pataas," Banayo said.