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Anomaly at the National Food Authority
« on: August 05, 2007, 12:07:01 PM »
By Ike Señeres 

  Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Arthur Yap should look into the alleged
rice trucking anomalies at the National Food Authority (NFA) National Capital
Region (NCR) right away, if only to prevent the corruption there from worsening
the already spiraling prices of this staple food. In a country that is full of
bidding rules that are supposed to promote fair and honest competition under an
atmosphere of free enterprise, it is surprising to note that some corrupt elements
there are promoting instead the monopoly of the rice trucking service by one
favored contractor, to the dismay of many smaller contractors who have been
sidelined unfairly.
  **
  Based on documents submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman, it appears that
NFA-NCR officials have illegally extended the trucking contract of Menruz Trucking
Services by giving it more loads, without bidding out the additional volume. In a
white paper that was also submitted to the Commission on Audit (COA) and the
Administrator of the NFA in Quezon City, unnamed complainants accused NFA-NCR
Regional Director Jose Cordero and Regional Bids and Awards Committee (RBAC)
Chairman Basilides Taco of abuse of power, by not calling for a bidding of the
additional load, circumventing the bidding rules as stipulated in Section 65 of
the Government Procurement Act (R.A. 9184), adding that it is also in violation of
the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (R.A. 3019).
  **
  According to the white paper, NFA-NCR conducted a bidding last January 26, 2006
for the hauling of 307, 500 metric tons of imported rice, and the bidding was won
by Menruz. To the surprise of everyone, it came out in later investigations that
Menruz had actually hauled a total of 534, 674 metric tons, way above the volume
covered by the contract. The complainants submitted a copy of the Summary of
Pierside and Shipside Operations in 2006 Rice Importations, to prove their
accusation.
  **
  Given the fact that there was an over delivery of 227, 174 metric tons, this
additional volume should have been subjected to another bidding, in fairness to
the other truckers who are also looking for some business with the NFA. Under
cases of extreme emergencies, agencies like NFA could extend certain contracts
without any bidding, but it is very clear from the reports that there was no
emergency at that time at all.
  **
  Quite frankly, I have lost track of where the NFA is now under, after it was
tossed back and forth several times from the DA to the Office of the President
(OP). Wherever it is under now however, Secretary Yap should look into this
anomaly, because it could possibly set back some of the good programs that he is
implementing to ensure the supply of rice, as well as to control its retail
prices. The connection might be circuitous, but I am sure that the illegal
extensions of rice hauling contracts would involve the movement of dirty money
that would eventually be charged to consumers.
  **
  In the first place, I find it ironic that an “Authority” like the NFA would even
exist in a democracy that is supposed to support a free market system. I think the
same way about the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), that an
“Authority” like the NEDA has no place in a free market economy. Of course I see a
place for a central planning agency as a staff service to the Executive Branch,
but without extremely powerful regulatory powers. In much the same way, I see a
place for a government owned grains trading company that would compete with
private sector trading companies in order to bring down the prices of grains, but
not to give it import monopoly on top of extreme regulatory powers.
  **
  There was a time when the Ombudsman would act even on the basis of newspaper
reports. We do not see this office doing this now, but as I see it, a white paper
that is adequately supported by proper documents should at least merit their
attention to conduct an investigation. Same goes for the COA, an agency that
always hides under the alibi that they are following the “post audit” method.
Well, this alleged anomaly is within the purview of “post audit” now, so the COA
has no reason to cop out from this heat.
  **
  Recent studies show that new homegrown technologies now enable local farmers to
produce more rice than before. The government should look into these studies, and
come up with the policy of matching real supply data with the decisions to import
rice or not, in the best interests of our local farmers.
  **
  Join SamaKabuhayan, a member of the Inter-Charity Network. We assist people in
looking for jobs, starting a small business, in financing and in marketing. Email
ike@kaiking.net or text us at 09196466323.Unit 324, Guadalupe Commercial Complex,
Guadalupe Nuevo, EDSA, Makati.

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