Feeling turista! NFA’s travel expenses triple while rice prices fly high
The National Food Authority (NFA) tripled its foreign travel budget in 2017 as officials went on group junkets and retiring execs made more than one trip for the road before their exit.
In a report by the Commission on Audit, the NFA’s travel expenses abroad surged to P2.019 million in 2017 or 200 percent more than its budget the previous year.
COA said NFA’s increased participation to foreign trainings conferences violated the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Budget Circular (BC) No. 2017-5 dated December 11, 2017, mandating the judicious and prudent use of government funds.
COA said NFA used to send only one to two officials in global conferences but sent up to four people to the same world junket meetings in 2017.
Foreign travel expenses increased by P2.019 million or 200 per cent from last year’s expenses mainly due to the increase in the number of, in view of the NFA’s commitment to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and in preparation for its hosting the ASEAN Summit, which is not in conformity with the.
COA said the NFA also violated government rules when it spent P1.392 million for the foreign trips of three NFA officials who were due to retire within one year from the date of their travels booked – the Deputy Administrator for Finance and Administration who retired in May 7, 2017; Division Chief Grains Marketing Operations who retired in February 18, 2018; and the Deputy Administrator for Finance and Administration who retired in June 24, 2018. DBM rules explicitly stated that “no official or employee will be sent to foreign training, conferences or attend international commitments when they are due to retire within one year after the said foreign travel.”
COA urged the NFA to observe the judicious and prudent use of government funds to ensure that no irregular, unnecessary, extravagant, excessive and unconscionable expenses shall be incurred by the Agency.
NFA management led by Jason Aquino explained that these travels were part of its commitment to the World Trade Organization.and ASEAN. NFA claimed that NFA officials on this traveling spree were “the most competent and trained to attend such conferences abroad.”
COA also noted a P526,000 discrepancy between what the NFA reported and used in their travel liquidations.