Philippines: irregularities plague rice programme

by GRAIN | 18 Sep 2008

With the P728-million “fertilizer fund scam” still unresolved, a latest report of the Commission on Audit (COA) further embroils the Department of Agriculture's (DA) GMA rice programme with series of irregularities on the use of funds. The news of a “rice scam” was headlined in some newspapers last week.  But, as the Philippines NGO SEARICE pointed out, this is just the latest in a series of COA annual reports and other studies that detail gross coruption issues with this hybrid rice and fertliser subsidiy programme managed by the DA.

The full COA financial and compliance audit from this year can be found on their website, or read the executive summary here, which, among other things, points to:

  • loss or waste of government resources amounting to P237.61 million (US$ 5.1 million)
  • intended benefits from projects totaling P781.29 million (US$ 16.8 million) were unrealized ; projects were either delayed or not carried out
  • benefits derived from projects totaling P1.31 billion (US$ 28.3 million) cannot be ascertained for lack of audit trail
  • financial transactions totaling P1.646 billion (US$ 35.6 million) are with deficiencies such as deviation of loan funds
  • various releases from Department of Budget and Management (DBM) over and above appropriation totaling P4.36 billion (US$ 94.3 million) - with vague work and financial plan and without expected activities and outputs – are merged with the regular funds of the DA's approved budget

The COA report further observes that: “The good intention of the GMA Rice Programme to reduce poverty incidence and attain national food security is tainted with flaw because 6.5-36% of sampled farmer beneficiaries in three regions did not receive the subsidized rice seeds / fertilizers from DA and denied the signatures appearing in the masterlist. ”

Some farmers who happened to receive the subsidised hybrid rice seeds, however, complain of quality issues. Farmers in a town in Cebu vowed not to accept hybrid seeds again given out under the program. Alex Binghay, mayor of Balamban town, said many farmers complained about the failure of the seeds to germinate or sprout. The farmers find sowing GMA seeds a waste of time and effort.

The DA, responsible for years of mismanagement with the GMA hybrid rice programme, is also the central agency tasked to implement the new Php 43.7 billion (US$ 939 million) FIELDS programme, of which about P30 billion (US$ 645 million) is earmarked for a National Rice Self-sufficiency Plan (2009-2010) that will provide fertiliser and (hybrid rice) seed subsidies to farmers, as well as rural credit. In the midst of these irregularities and serious seed quality issues, it is unthinkable that the DA would be expanding and extending its seriously flawed GMA programe. According to an official of the GMA rice programme, the self-sufficiency plan will now cover 80 instead of the original 49 provinces, and will be implemented until 2013 instead of 2010.

Author: GRAIN
Links in this article:
  • [1]
  • [2]
  • [3]
  • [4]
  • [5]