200 lawmakers in ‘pork’ mess
Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - August 17, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - At least 12 senators and around 180 congressmen, through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), funneled P6.156 billion in pork barrel funds to 82 questionable non-government organizations (NGOs) from 2007 to 2009.

Download: Full COA report on PDAF use

Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Ma. Gracia Pulido-Tan, baring the results of a two-year special audit yesterday, said 10 of the dubious NGOs had links to controversial businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, while six had links to sponsoring lawmakers through relatives.

Tan mentioned that there were only 12 senators, but the 135-page COA report mentioned 15.

Among congressmen who are normally allotted from P30 million to P70 million a year for projects they earmark for implementation, one – Manuel “Way Kurat” Zamora of Davao del Norte’s 1st District who is now Compostela vice governor  – received some P3 billion, Tan told a news conference.

The DBM even released P20 million in Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) or the pork barrel to a nonexistent or “ghost” lawmaker, a certain Luis Abalos.

From 2007 to 2009, 74 lawmakers exceeded their pork barrel allocations by hundreds of millions. Each senator gets P200 million a year in PDAF.

Congressmen were found to have used their pork barrel for projects outside their legislative districts. COA auditors uncovered grossly deficient projects, dubious beneficiaries and the use of questionable receipts.

Tan said state auditors, following up the listed addresses of dubious NGOs, found shanties, condominium units and expensive private residences.

The COA chief refused to name names, but the report linked to questionable fund releases Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile; former senators Edgardo Angara, Juan Flavier, Ramon Magsaysay Jr., Manuel Villar, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Francis Pangilinan and Rodolfo Biazon; and Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Jinggoy Estrada, Gregorio Honasan, Lito Lapid, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Ramon “Bong” Revilla.

Enrile has said his signature was faked on a document wherein he is requesting the release of funds to a questionable NGO.

Related story: Pork beneficiaries' names randomly taken from exam passers lists

From 2007 to 2009, the COA validated P32 billion of about P101.6 billion that was released by the DBM for soft projects nationwide, P12 billion for hard or infrastructure projects, and P2.36 billion for financial assistance to local government units (LGUs) and budgetary support for government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs).

The special audit covered the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC), National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC), National Agribusiness Corp. (NABCOR), and the Zamboanga del Norte Agricultural College Rubber Estate Corp. (ZREC).

The probe also covered the city governments of Mandaluyong, Manila, Quezon City, Taguig, Las Piñas, Tabaco, Iriga, Naga and Panabo; and the provincial governments of Tarlac, Bataan, Nueva Ecija, Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.

Tan said the agencies were selected for audit based on the magnitude of releases to them as gleaned from the National Expenditure Program (NEP).

“A total of P6.156 billion was transferred by the agencies to 82 NGOs. This came from the PDAFs of 12 senators and around 180 representatives,” she declared, citing the audit team’s findings.

“Ten of the NGOs, which received a total of P2.157 billion, are presently linked to Janet Lim Napoles. Six other NGOs, on the other hand, which received a total of P189 million, were found to have included the legislators whose PDAF was transferred to the NGO, or a relative, as incorporator (or) officer,” Tan said.

About P1.393 billion went to infrastructure projects funded from the VILP (Various Infrastructures including Local Projects) component of the PDAF, from the allocations of three senators and six congressmen.

Releases to LGUs for soft projects, on the other hand, amounted to P2.034 billion, funded from the allocations of 14 senators and about 33 congressmen identified from the records of the audited agencies, and some others who were not identified.

DBM failure

Citing the audit report’s findings, Tan said the DBM failed to efficiently monitor and keep proper records of the fund releases of each legislator. The DBM could not provide a complete schedule of releases despite repeated requests.

“The commission thus relied on records of the agencies themselves, and documents obtained from the DBM. These showed that 74 legislators significantly exceeded their respective allocations, with several by hundreds of millions, and one by almost P3 billion,” she said.

The COA report also bared that funds were released for projects outside the legislative districts of sponsoring congressmen. There were no endorsements from the supposed recipient agencies, in violation of the DBM’s own rules.

There was also no assessment of the agencies’ capabilities to implement the projects, which means the releases were made essentially at the behest of the sponsoring legislators.

Implementing agencies, Tan noted, simply transferred the funds to the NGOs identified or selected by the legislators. This runs counter to the rules of the Government Procurement and Policy Board.

No bidding

“Even assuming the existence of appropriation or ordinance, the NGOs were not selected through competitive bidding as required by the resolution. The agencies merely relied on the endorsement of the legislators, some of whom denied their participation or signatures in letters and documents,” Tan said.

“The agencies barely monitored the projects, if at all. Nonetheless, some agencies charged a management fee of about three percent of alleged project cost,” she added.

Tan said the projects were found to be “grossly deficient in many ways, casting doubt on whether they were carried out at all, much more in the magnitude claimed by the NGOs.”

Many of the NGOs were found to be “of dubious existence,” she said – “either unknown or could not be found at their given addresses, or have given non-existent addresses, or were traced to mere shanties or high-end residences, which turned out to be the residences of their owners/officers.”

There was no public bidding for the NGOs’ multibillion-peso procurements and many suppliers were the same for most of the groups.

“Some purported suppliers denied transacting with the NGOs, or confirmed for much lesser amounts. Some were also without business permits or not registered with the (Securities and Exchange Commission), issuing dubious receipts, and were managed or owned by the same persons,” Tan said.

Split contracts

To evade auditing rules, contracts were split into smaller ones. Around 90 projects were found to be either not utilized or fully utilized, or in a state of deterioration.

Auditors found that 54 projects costing P161.5 million were constructed on private lots without any document showing the turnover of the properties to the government.

Financial assistance and other charges in the local governments’ disbursements, amounting to P1.29 billion, involved several procurements that did not comply with the procurement law. Transactions were denied by purported suppliers, or else the suppliers were of dubious existence. Goods purportedly procured could not be accounted for.

Recommendations

 

Tan said the COA issued a host of recommendations, including the issuance by the DBM of specific and stringent guidelines on the utilization of PDAF and the participation of NGOs.

The COA also recommended that legislators limit their participation in the PDAF to identification of projects, and ensure that the projects are eligible under the terms and provisions of the General Appropriations Act.

Congressmen were urged to limit project coverage within their respective districts or sector.

On NGOs, she said the COA could only recommend their blacklisting and the immediate investigation of all persons involved for the filing of appropriate administrative and criminal charges.

 

AGENCIES AQUILINO PIMENTEL JR. BILLION CHAIRMAN MA COA NGOS PROJECTS TAN
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