Wednesday, August 21, 2013

#PDAFscam | My recommendations based on COA's audit findings

It is no secret that the Philippine government -- whether of administrations past or present -- is corrupt, and to dismiss it as mere public opinion is downright insulting. It is in this regard that we welcome, however enraged we might be with them, all these exposés on the misuse and pocketing of pork barrel funds. Many of us taxpayers have been expressing our anger at this government that shows no genuine regard for its people and that does not have an iota of any sense of accountability at all.

While so-called "pork barrel queen" Janet Napoles is in hiding, which, by the way, is really no surprise given her extensive connections with the most high in government, the Commission on Audit (COA) released a report on their special audit of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or more widely known as the pork barrel fund. The report sent more bloods boiling -- mine included -- and prompted more angry tweets and posts, including calls to stop paying taxes, and which even led to the conception of a protest march in Luneta on August 26. Meanwhile, the collective silence of the Palace and of our legislators is deafening.

interaksyon_abolish pork barrel
[Photo from interaksyon.com]

The special audit covered PDAF releases by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Central Office and Regional Offices III, V, XI, and National Capital Region; and the utilization of funds and implementation of projects from 2007 to 2009 by select implementing agencies (IAs) based on materiality of amounts released to them. Please note that not all regions and IAs were covered by the review, and that these releases were during the Arroyo administration.

With more than 400 pages, the COA report is a mega audit report. However, to summarize everything, COA concluded that the "PDAF and VILP (Various Infrastructures including Local Projects) were not properly released by the DBM and not appropriately, efficiently and effectively utilized by the IAs." And oh, we're talking about billions upon billions of pesos here.

Screen shot 2013-08-20 at 6.31.33 PM

COA, of course, made some recommendations addressed to the DBM, the IAs, and the legislators. However, I was personally not satisfied with them, especially considering the staggering amount of misused funds at hand. As such, based on their findings, I have come up with my own personal recommendations, to wit:

1. Abolish the PDAF.
Introduced in 1989 during the Cory Aquino administration, these lump sum appropriations for projects of legislators first came to be as the Mindanao Development Fund and Visayas Development Fund, which morphed into the Countrywide Development Fund (CDF) in 1990, and was finally renamed to PDAF in 2000. From a combined Php 720 million in 1989, these annual appropriations have grown leaps and bounds to Php 32.9 billion in 2009 (and more so under the current administration of BS Aquino).

However, why do our senators and congressmen need such ridiculous amounts of funds anyway? Their mandate is legislation, which is to craft laws, period. In that regard, their KRAs and expected output should only be to come up with laws that would be beneficial to the country and to the Filipino people. Ergo, they do not need such funds.

Interestingly, these appropriations have grown exponentially over the years, determined and authorized by none other but our dear legislators in Congress. I don't know about you but is it not a little self-serving? Besides, why are they so adamant about not letting go of their pork?

Addressing this problem is rather plain and simple. Since the root cause of all this corruption and misappropriation of funds is the PDAF itself, we need to abolish the PDAF. If we eliminate the cause, we eliminate the problem. From there, Let's just see who still wants to run for public office to "serve" the public.

2. Dissolve the DBM.
This may sound rather harsh but the government can always outsource its finance functions to any of the country's top accounting firms. Whichever firm is chosen will surely do its best lest it lose all its credibility, and its contract rescinded and awarded to a rival firm.

Time and again the DBM has proven itself inept at managing our country's budget and has absolutely failed in their control function. The DBM cannot even account for all PDAF releases and as such is incapable of transparency. Likewise, this agency is totally incompetent at ensuring releases do not exceed any lawmaker's allocation or if the concerned projects are outside a lawmaker's legislative district. Heck, they cannot even validate if a purported legislator is indeed a member of Congress!

If the DBM is not in collusion with other government agencies and legislators, they are nonetheless guilty of being enablers of fraud and corruption among IAs and our legislators. It is but logical to eliminate these enablers.

3. Arrest erring lawmakers and collect from them.
Forget about impunity and presumption of innocence. Instead, a presumption of guilt must be applied in the case of our honorable legislators. Because having prosecutors exhaust themselves trying to prove the accused's guilt is counterproductive, the accused senators and congressmen should instead work to prove their innocence.

Lawmakers who exceed their allocations should be presumed guilty unless proven otherwise. Concurrently, legislators who allocate funds to questionable NGOs, including those that they themselves or their relatives have incorporated, should also be presumed guilty. Moreover, those who allocate funds for projects with no corresponding appropriation law or ordinance, projects that have no definite time schedules, projects with no apparent benefit to the citizens, and other projects of questionable nature, should likewise be presumed guilty.

Such senators and congressmen should be arrested and should never be allowed to post bail. Furthermore, all amounts in excess of their allocations, costs of projects awarded to questionable NGOs, and costs of unauthorized, illegal and questionable projects, should be collected from them in five (5) working days without extension. If they fail to comply, the State must seize all their properties and accounts, and recover the amounts involved from the disposal of such property.

Should accused lawmakers contend that they have been defrauded by certain NGOs or IAs, or even by the DBM, it should no longer be a problem of the State. The said lawmakers can go after these NGOs, IAs and other personalities on their own accord. This way it will all be much simpler for the State.

pork barrel issue (from fb)
[Photo source]

4. Implement strict liquidation policies.
While this may no longer be about the PDAF because of its abolition, nor of the DBM's responsibility following its dissolution, this should still be applied prospectively to all government disbursements, and should be strictly implemented by the contracted accounting firm.

All fund releases through any government official or agency should be liquidated within thirty (30) calendar days from the date the fund is released. Should the official fail to comply, the State will seize all his properties and the amount concerned will be recovered from the disposal of such property. Moreover, there should be no additional fund releases to any official who still has an outstanding unliquidated release.

5. Pass the FOI Law now.
Since all we get are lame and insulting excuses from our esteemed lawmakers, cabinet secretaries, and other officials, we need the FOI Law now. Everything from your Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) and supporting schedules, to your bank accounts, and transactions entered into on behalf of the government, must be transparent to the public. There are to be no buts and no ifs.

Enough with hiding behind technicalities and with flimsy explanations that disclosure of such information may be used by your enemies against you or whatever. Your fear that such disclosures may trigger kidnappings and robberies is totally unfounded and nothing but lies since everybody already knows how rich you are, or better yet, how you have enriched yourselves from your pork. What you really fear is that the public will finally be able to question your sources of wealth and who will, once and for all, eventually have substantial hard evidence that you have stolen from the country, that you are corrupt.

Now, if lawmakers and other government officials really have nothing to hide, there remains no other sensible reason why such a law cannot be passed. Moreover, if it was so easy for them to obtain SALNs, bank account transactions, and other confidential information to implicate former Chief Justice Renato Corona -- without any such law at that -- it really should not be too hard to provide the Filipino people with such information, right?

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And for COA, I strongly recommend you do the following:

1. Conduct a special audit of the PDAF covering the period 2010 to 2013.
Good job on the special audit, but to dispel all doubts that this was but a ploy by Malacañang to further demonize the Arroyo administration, you need to immediately conduct another special audit to cover PDAF releases under the current administration of BS Aquino. Including it under one of your regular annual audits will not cut it because the purpose, scope and approach employed in a special audit is very different from a regular review.


kmu_aquino pork barrel king
[Photo from kilusangmayouno.org]

2. Audit the President's pork barrel.
The President should not be exempt from this, especially since people are crying mad about BS Aquino's alleged Php 1 trillion pork. Whether or not that is true is irrelevant. The Filipino people, aggrieved taxpayers most of all, demand and rightfully deserve transparency and accountability.

In the spirit of fairness, include the Vice President and other officials as well.

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"People should not be afraid of their governments;
governments should be afraid of their people."


You can check out the full COA report here.
See you on Aug. 26 at Luneta!

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