Certain private rice retailers in the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur and Cavite, as well as the cities of northern Metro Manila, were allowed by the National Food Authority (NFA) to exceed their maximum weekly rice allocations last year.
The Commission on Audit (COA) has revealed that selected retailers were given “undue advantage,” and the failure to enforce the maximum allocation system led to “diversion of stocks” and “unequitable rice distribution.”
The biggest excess was found in Ilocos Norte, where a retailer only identified as “SM” was found to have withdrawn 5,772 bags of NFA rice from April to December 2017.
This was 1,110% more than the said retailer’s allocation of only 477 bags. Six more retailers incurred excess withdrawals above 400%, while another 10 exceeded the limit by above 50%.
All in all, the 17 retailers were able to withdraw 31,600 bags, or more than four times the total allocation of 7,105 bags. This translated to an excess of 24,495 bags.
The Ilocos Norte provincial office reasoned out that retailers were allowed to exceed allocations to meet demand, and the allocations were just meant to determine the monthly distribution targets.
Similarly, 19 retailers in Ilocos Sur were allowed by the NFA provincial office to exceed their allocations by 3,009 bags from October to December 2017.
Excess allocations of 14,936 bags and 6,595 bags were also released to 21 retailers covered by the North District Office (NDO) area in northern Metro Manila and 51 retailers in Cavite around the same time.
The COA said the aforementioned NFA offices should “strictly adhere” to NFA Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) Number GM-DN09, which aimed to distribute cheap NFA rice “proportionately” to the public.
It said the NFA offices should “stop the practice of granting excess allocations to retailers.”