Lopez: No anomaly, missing funds in PITC
MANILA, Philippines — There is no anomaly — missing or parked funds — contrary to the allegations and insinuations being hurled at the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC), Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez told INQUIRER.net.
“Ang malinaw dito, walang nawawalang pera dito,” Lopez, who is also the chairman of PITC’s board of directors, said in a phone interview Wednesday.
(It is clear that there is no missing money.)
“Walang naka-park per se. When you say naka-park parang bunuburo na doon walang nangyayari,” he added.
(No parked funds per se. When you say it is parked, it is as if it is resting there and nothing is happening with it.)
Lopez was still reacting to earlier reports that a P33 billion fund was allegedly parked or sleeping in the agency’s bank account.
“Kahit bali-baligtarin mo, wala namang anomaly,” Lopez went on.
(Even if you turn things upside down, there is no anomaly.)
PITC, a little-known state-run trading firm, manages the procurement processes for different government agencies such as the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Lopez explained that the PITC follows a reformed procurement policy that prevents them from receiving funds before the Terms of Reference (TOR) are finalized.
“Mula 2019, again part of the reform, since the process of TOR is taking time usually with the agency, ‘yung policy ng PITC sinasabi na ‘wag niyo muna i-assign pera sa PITC’,” he explained.
(Since 2019, again part of the reform, since the process of TOR is taking time – usually with the agency – PITC’s policy stated that client-agencies should refrain from immediately giving them funds.)
The funds, he said, will only be taken by the agency once the bidding process starts. This allows PITC to prepare for the purchase after determining the winning bidder.
“I-assign pag tapos ng TOR at pag tapos na ang TOR mag uumpisa na bidding. That ‘s the time PITC can deposit or handle the money,” said Lopez.
(The funds should be assigned only after the TOR has been processed and the bidding has started. That’s the time PITC can deposit or handle the money.)
“[S]i PITC, hindi niya hawak technically yung pera. Ang pera ay nasa bangko na ang interest naman, una government bank din yon, din ay bumabalik sa government either thru the agency.,” he added.
(Technically, PITC does not handle the money. It is in a government bank and the interest is also returned to the government.)
Clear from loose funds
Another part of PITC’s reformed policy is to clear all loose accounts and funds accumulated on and before 2019.
“Lahat ‘yan nilinis na, sinauli na sa government yung mga nakakalat pa dyan mga maliliit na amount from previous projects,” Lopez stated.
(The small amounts left from previous projects were already cleared and returned to the government.)
In a statement, PITC President and CEO Dave Almarinez also clarified that all unused funds in the agency have already been returned to the National Treasury.
This is contrary to previous reports citing the Commission on Audit’s (COA) findings of PITC’s “unutilized” and unreturned funds.
“The PITC has records to show that it has reverted back to the National Treasury all unutilized funds of client-agencies covering the periods 2019 and prior years and fully liquidated funds utilized for the procurement of goods and services for those years,” the statement read.
Lopez defended that the agency’s current funds are for ongoing projects. These projects pertain to procurements that are undergoing the bidding process.
“Kasi yung lahat ng pera ngayon na resereved, nirereserve ‘yun kasi nga budget ng agency ‘yun na pag oras na may nanalo sa bid kailangan may pangbayad. Hindi ‘yung maghahanap ka pa ng pera,” he said.
(PITC is reserving money to pay for the winning bidders.)
He also reminded that the process takes time before the agency marks the transaction as failed. “Kahit kanino mo i-assign ‘yan it will take time kasi nga you want to follow the process and transaction,” he commented.
Under the new policy, PITC is allowed to stop the project if there is no winning bidder within two years. Lopez assured all funds for failed procurements will be automatically returned.
Lopez reiterated that the agency does not receive any commission.
He also addressed the service fee imposed by PITC – which was recently questioned by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.
“They don’t get any budget. That’s the reason why they have the mandate to collect service fees. It’s not commissions. It depends on the amount of purchase,” he said.
“Pag over a billion, one percent. Pag less than a billion iba-ibang level, puwedeng two percent, three percent. Maximum four percent so mali rin yung five percent,” he added.
(If the project is worth over a billion pesos, the agency gets one percent. If it is less than a billion, they can get two or three percent. Maximum is four percent; so the previously reported five percent is also wrong.)
Operating for the government
The trade secretary disproved claims about PITC’s poor track records. He vouched that the agency already had many successful procurements.
“Under this new administration, frankly I’ve seen their financials, every year lumalaki yung dividend nila to government. Ibig sabihin maganda yung operation nila kasi nakaka procure sila nang maayos,” said Lopez.
(Under this new administration, frankly I’ve seen their financials, their dividends to the government are growing every year. This means that they are operating efficiently because they can procure properly.)
“They’re functioning, operating efficiently and profitably and it doesn’t go to the pocket of the people there,” he added referring to the agency’s officials and employees. “Wala namang ibang mapupuntahan yung pera nila kundi sa government treasury din eh.”
(The funds will only go to the government treasury.)
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