MANILA - Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala on Friday said the Department of Agriculture will answer next week the Commission on Audit's demand for explanation on the P14.4 billion allegedly squandered by the DA on questionable projects in 2013.
Speaking to [email protected], Alcala denied that the P14 billion in funds were pocketed by corrupt officials.
"Wala pong dinambong sa pera ng bayan," he said.
Alcala noted P4.3 billion in Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) loans that were mentioned in the COA report were actually disbursed before he took over as DA chief in July 2010. ACEF loans are given to farmers and fishermen at zero interest with no collateral.
He said he stopped the disbursement of the ACEF loans due to poor collections and ordered a restructuring of the loans so that farmers and fishermen could pay.
The only allowed disbursements coming from the ACEF are for students in agri-related courses.
Alcala said that instead of loans, the ACEF will be used for other facilities that will help local farmers and fishermen prepare for the ASEAN integration.
On the other hand, the DA chief admitted that the department failed to finish the construction of 1,079.2 kilometers of farm-to-market roads in 2013, which had a budget of P7.8 billion.
The COA report said that instead of 1,079.2 kilometers, the DA only finished 270 kilometers of farm-to-market roads at a cost of P1.7 billion.
Alcala confirmed some of the road projects were left unfinished by the end of 2013 because the funds were only released in the last quarter of that year.
He said that some of the funds for the farm-to-market roads were downloaded to local government units, which then encountered problems on right of way and peace and order.
The DA chief said the department also forged a memorandum of agreement with the Department of Public Works and Highways for the construction of the roads.
Alcala said there is an ongoing audit of programs funded through the disbursement acceleration program after the Supreme Court ruled parts of the program as unconstitutional.
He also confirmed the release of P300 million in funds to seven non-government organizations, one of which has links to alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
He said of the P44 million allocated to the Napoles NGO, about P750,000 remains unaccounted for.
The DA, through the Office of the Solicitor General, is set to file a case against the NGO.