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Business

NFA Council pushes management audit

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The National Food Authority (NFA) Council is pushing for an audit of the operations of the grains agency’s management over recent criticisms on statements about an alleged rice supply lack that may have caused panic. 

Office of the Secretary to the Cabinet assistant secretary Jonas Soriano said an audit would improve the procurement and monitoring processes of the NFA, which is mandated to ensure the availability of cheap rice in the market. 

“The NFA Council favors the conduct of a special audit of NFA’s procurement and distribution operations. The audit shall be administered by the Commission on Audit so as to assess the current NFA operations to determine points for improvements and streamline bottlenecks in the agency’s procurement and distribution processes,” Soriano said in a press briefing in Malacañang. 

He said the idea behind the audit is “to find out what is really happening in terms of the different warehouses and procurement on the field.”

“The general idea is we’d like to find out and help NFA management in planning out strategies for procurement,” Soriano said. 

“We like to understand the issues the NFA management is saying so that when the council comes up with a decision, it not only looks into what the NFA is saying but also at the interests of other players in the industry,” he added. 

Soriano was careful not to link the audit to the recent controversy on the supposed rice shortage in the country, which was later on debunked by the NFA Council. 

Asked whether the audit was a recognition that there are problems in the NFA management’s operations, Soriano said: “Its more of a recognition that the NFA Council is supposed to be a body that really oversees how things are done.” 

“This issue of the lack of NFA rice is really something that both the management and the council would really like to look at together. It’s hard if it comes from us. 

It’s hard if it comes from management...It’s normal in operations to audit,” he added. 

Last month, NFA administrator Jason Aquino told a congressional hearing that the remaining rice supply stocked by the NFA was just equivalent to about one-and-a-half days. But Aquino clarified that the NFA is not the only source of rice in the country since there are also household and commercial stocks. 

NFA Council chairman and Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco had asked the NFA to be more proactive in monitoring warehouses and to strengthen efforts against rice hoarding.  

Earlier this month, Malacañang announced that the NFA Council would be the only source of information about the country’s rice supply. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque has said Aquino’s recent statements about the rice supply might have caused panic that raised the prices of the staple.   

The NFA Council has approved the importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice to increase the grains agency’s buffer stock. The NFA is required to have a buffer stock that is good for at least 15 days during harvest season and a 30-day buffer stock during the lean months of July to September. 

Soriano said the NFA Council also emphasized the urgency to expedite the amendment of the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996 to protect local rice farmers from the lifting of the quantitative restriction on rice imports. He said the measure would also provide the country additional income through higher tariffs for imported agricultural products and allow for a more equitable supply of rice.

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