Milked dry? COA calls for probe into Nabcor's P100-million dairy goat project

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Audit (COA) recommended that the Department of Agriculture (DA) conduct a probe into a 2009 dairy goat project by a now-abolished government-controlled corporation.

COA's Special Audits Office said the National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor) wasted the P100-million Dairy Goat Development Project (DGDP) that was funded through proceeds from the Malampaya natural gas project.

As a result, COA said the project's goals were "not fully realized."

The audit agency transmitted its findings to the DA in a special audit report dated December 10, 2018, and posted on COA's website only last September 18.

In its report, COA said that out of 1,749 goats Nabcor procured for the project, only 696 or 40% remained alive, based on interviews with 120 project beneficiaries in 2013. Half of the beneficiaries told COA that the goats "were not in good condition upon receipt."

The common causes of the high goat mortality were diseases, stress, insufficient food, and improper housing.

The project intended to import 1,830 goats, but Nabcor only procured 766 imported goats and chose to get 4,028 local goats, for a combined cost of P74.94 million.

"No document was made available to the Audit Team to justify or explain the deviation from the project's original objective," said COA.

COA also said that 84 bucks (male goats) and 680 does (female goats) worth P34.02 million "were not supported by Certificates of Acceptance evidencing receipt by the beneficiaries."

COA likewise found that only 253 offspring from procured goats have been redistributed to other beneficiaries, as part of a loan agreement.

Many farmers also complained that they spent more money than they expected to earn from the project, and that they were not given proper training to ensure proper care of the goats.

In additon, Nabcor procured 18 milking machines, but 8 distributed units were not used and one was not distributed. The purchase of these milking machines was not compliant with procurement laws, added COA. 

The DGDP sought to address the gaps in poverty incidence by providing "employment and livelihood opportunities to augment household income through dairy goat production by providing dairy goat modules," noted COA.

Dubious supplier

COA also pointed out some issues with Ebenezer Goat Farm which got the contract for the project, as well as with the bidding process.  

There had been two failed public biddings before Nabcor claimed to have asked the Australian embassy to tap potential suppliers through the Australian Dairy Goat Consolidators. Nabcor said it also informed the Federation of Goat and Sheep Producers Associations of the Philippines about the project. 

However, COA said there are "no documents showing that Nabcor indeed notified the said parties about the invitation to bid."

Ebenezer Goat Farm was the only bidder for the project.

The audit team discovered that Ebenezer Goat Farm – based in Capas, Tarlac – started its operations only in 2009, the same year the contract was bid out. It did not comply with the 3-year requirement for suppliers at that point in the bidding process, said COA. 

The audit team also found out that Ebenezer Goat Farm got an authority to print receipts and sales invoices from the Bureau of Internal Revenue only on November 24, 2009.

Nabcor already abolished

In January 2014, Rappler reported that Nabcor was among the 3 agencies that then-president Benigno Aquino III ordered abolished due to involvement in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.

COA began to forward highlights of the special audit to the DA in 2018. In its reply to COA, the DA pointed out that since Nabcor officials and staff are not in government anymore, and some are already facing graft charges, "the recommendation to conduct further investigation would be impossible."

Nonetheless, the DA said it "took note and submitted to almost all audit recommendations" of COA. – Rappler.com