Pork barrel scam alarms legit NGOs

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MANILA, Philippines—A group of development workers has expressed concern that revelations of ghost projects implemented by bogus contractors would hobble its operations.

“The reported scam involving pork barrel funds of legislators and fake nongovernment organizations (NGOs) unfairly tarnishes the image of legitimate NGOs,” said Donato C. Macasaet, executive director of the Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO), in a statement Monday.

The umbrella association has 12 NGO networks and 1,600 base organizations nationwide.

Current news reports about a P10-billion decade-old scam involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of congressmen and senators drag down the image and credibility of genuine NGOs who work hard in many communities, often with limited funds, and are quite unfair,” Macasaet said.

He feared that the allegations of wrongdoing would affect donations for legitimate NGOs and people’s organizations (POs).

“Why is it that legitimate NGOs find it very difficult to avail themselves of government funding support for their worthy projects, yet dubious individuals are able to use bogus NGOs to run rings around government financial rules?” Macasaet asked.

CODE-NGO called on the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Commission on Audit (COA) to immediately review and revise its rules on funding for NGOs and POs even while the investigation into the reported scam is ongoing.

“We cannot afford more scandals like this. It hurts both the government and all legitimate NGOs and POs who are valuable contributors to nation-building and national development” Macasaet said.

COA circular

He said that Circular 2007-001 of the Commission on Audit stated that the release of government funds to NGOs and POs stipulates that these groups need to submit certifications of legitimacy.

These are the certificate of registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Cooperative and Development Authority or the Department of Labor and Employment; an authenticated copy of their latest articles of incorporation or articles of cooperation; and audited financial reports for the past three years.

However, the same circular also provides that for NGOs and POs in existence for less than three years, an accomplishment and financial report for the period it has been in operation will be sufficient.

Apparently, an independent validation of the documents submitted by NGOs and POs is not provided for by the government.

“We believe that incidents like this can be avoided and the PDAF can be utilized more effectively and responsibly if NGO-recipients are limited to those certified by the Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC) or similar certification bodies,” Macasaet said.

CODE-NGO welcomed the probe of the National Bureau of Investigation into the reported scam and asked that all those found to be involved be prosecuted.

Macasaet also challenged Congress to be more transparent about their PDAF.

Transparency urged

“We appreciate the DBM’s initiative to post its PDAF fund releases online, but as articulated in our PDAF Watch reports, congressmen and senators should themselves disclose more information about their PDAF, including their criteria and process for selecting projects and beneficiaries.”

The PCNC is an independent and NGO-initiated and -managed institution recognized by the Department of Finance that certifies NGOs for good governance, financial management and track record for creating impact to their beneficiaries.

CODE-NGO has been spearheading the PDAF Watch initiative since 2006.

As active advocates of effective, democratic and participatory governance, CODE-NGO upholds and promotes standards of conduct in development work in the same way that it demands good governance from the government.

The CODE-NGO network encourages its members and other NGOs to participate in the certification process of the PCNC and to ensure the adherence of member NGOs to the Code of Conduct for Development NGOs. It is also promoting a checklist of minimum good governance standards for NGOs and POs.

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