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2 COA auditors face raps over DAR funds

/ 12:30 AM October 22, 2013

The Office of the Ombudsman has filed criminal charges against two state auditors who allegedly conspired with officials of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and Janet Lim-Napoles through her dubious nongovernment organizations (NGOs) in connection with the misuse of P200 million supposedly for agrarian reform communities in 2007 and 2008.

The complaint identified the respondents as Noel A. Jacob, and Melba F. Fajardo.

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“It is clear that respondents Jacob and Fajardo conspired with DAR and NGO officials, accountants and notaries public in facilitating the liquidation of the [multi]million-peso DAR project in various municipalities nationwide,” the complaint said.

The complaint was signed by Ryan Medrano, Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer I, and was approved on Sept. 11 by Maria Olivia Elena A. Roxas, director of the General Investigation Bureau.

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Based on the complaint sheet, Jacob and Fajardo were charged with violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and with estafa through the falsification of public documents.

Roxas also recommended preventive suspension for the pair.

“Considering the propensity of the respondents to violate existing laws and rules regulations, and in order to prevent their possible interference or exercise of influence as regards the evidence or witnesses against them, it is recommended that the respondents be preventively suspended pending the investigation of this complaint,” he said.

Jacob is a State Auditor V, now assigned as supervising auditor (SA) of the Commission on Audit (COA) to the general headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Fajardo is State Auditor IV assigned to the nongovernment sector on agriculture and environment.

The field investigation office of the Ombudsman said Jacob was the SA of the COA-DAR and Fajardo was the audit team leader when the P200 million, covered by a special allotment release order (Saro), dated Dec. 4, 2007, was released to the DAR as implementing agency under then Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman.

No thorough audit

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The Ombudsman said the DAR transaction involving a huge amount of public funds would not have passed the COA-DAR had Jacob and Fajardo conducted a thorough audit, and used audit techniques and procedures.

“Had they verified the authenticity of the liquidation documents and conferred with the intended beneficiaries, the anomalous project would have been discovered and disallowed during their post audit,” the antigraft agency said.

Apart from the statements of mayors who were supposed to receive the fund, two other SAs said in sworn statements that the entire P200 million was released by the DAR and was liquidated, and that “no adverse findings by the COA-DAR were noted.”

Forged signatures

However, Ombudsman investigators said the signatures of the mayors were forged to make it appear that they had requested financial assistance from the DAR and that the projects were implemented in support of agribusiness development in cooperation with seven NGOs.

The NGOs implicated in the scam were Philippine Agri and Social Economic Development Foundation, Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation, Agrikultura para sa Magbubukid Foundation, Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation, People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation, Masaganang Ani para sa Magsasaka Foundation, and Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development Foundation.

Principal whistle-blower Benhur Luy, a former personal assistant of Napoles, has claimed that these NGOs were controlled by Napoles and that the deliveries “were mostly ghost deliveries or grossly overpriced.”

The P200 million was classified as an additional program fund to be generated by overall savings from the 2007 budget.

The money was to cover fund support for agribusiness development under CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program) in various municipalities nationwide “beginning with Alegria, Surigao del Norte province, and ending with Claver, Surigao del Norte.”

40 towns

The 40 town beneficiaries that were given allocations of P5 million each were Talacogon, Jbonga, Tubay in Agusan del Norte province; Sta. Josefa, San Agustin, Esperanza, San Luis, Bunawan and Veruela in Agusan del Sur province; Bacuag, Gigaquit, San Benito, Burgos, San Francisco, Tubajon, Claver, Alegria and Socorro in Surigao del Norte;

Bayabas, Lianga, San Miguel, Marihatag, Madrid and Cagwait in Surigao del Sur province; Divilacan and Tumauini in Isabela; Doña Remedios Trinidad and Marilao in Bulacan province; Esperanza in Masbate province; Rosales and Mapandan in Pangasinan province; Amadeo in Cavite province; Barauen in Leyte province; Pitogo in Zamboanga del Sur province; Talusan in Zamboanga Sibugay province; San Jose in Batangas province; and, Sanchez Mira and Piat in Cagayan province.

Each town was supposed to be given 130 agricultural supply packages (seeds, farming tools, and ergonomic knapsack sprayer) valued by the NGOs at P36,558 each.

The DAR central office was named the implementing agency through a four-page document dated Dec. 4, 2007, from then Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya. The letter was addressed to Pangandaman.

It was also through the DAR and Pangandaman that P900 million from the Malampaya Fund was coursed  in 2009. The fund, which was supposed to help storm victims, was also funneled to Napoles’ NGOs.

Pangandaman, Andaya, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Napoles and several others have been charged with plunder in the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the misuse of the P900 million from the Malampaya Fund.

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TAGS: auditors, Commission On Audit, conspiracy, dubious NGOs, Melba F. Fajardo, Noel A. Jacob, Philippines, pork barrel scam
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