Poor planning, target-setting stunted NIA projects — R1, DBM audit

As a result of poor planning and setting of targets, state-run National Irrigation Administration (NIA) incurred “very low accomplishment” rates that set off alarm bells over its use budget, a civil society

organization said Thursday.


“NIA has a problem on planning, setting targets as well as project designs causing delays and non-delivery of actual targets,” Hazel Tanchuling, secretariat coordinator at Rice Watch and Action Network (R1), told a media briefing Thursday.


A coalition of non-government organizations established in 2002 to pursue policy review and changes in rice farming and trade, R1 partnered with the Department of Budget and Management under the Budget Partnership Agreements to track NIA's project implementation.


An R1 audit of NIA revealed “very low accomplishment in generating new hectares of irrigated land and restoration of irrigation,” Tanchuling noted.

In achieving rice self-sufficiency, NIA targeted to create 312,823 hectares (has.) of new irrigated land, 312,261 has of restored irrigation, and 787,352 has. of rehabilitated irrigation in 2010 to 2014.


But NIA data showed a totally different picture: only 84,983 in new irrigation hectares or 27.17 percent of the target under the five-year program was created as of end-2012.


Moreover, the agency only restored 128,610 has. of irrigation or 41.19 percent of target while 538,380 has. or 68.38 percent of the target was rehabilitated.


Looking through specific multi-year irrigation projects, the R1 audit discovered “delayed completion, unrealistic targets, lack of project phasing” under NIA-run programs.

According to the audit report, NIA responded that “some projects are in dam construction stages, hence does not necessarily translate to immediate new hectares” of irrigated land.


NIA officials were not available to comment on the report as of this posting.


At the same briefing, R1 co-covenor Aurora Regalado claimed NIA “put a target of accomplishment per year themselves, so wouldn't

they have to be evaluated based on their set targets?”


Follow the money

R1 also red-flagged how NIA was using the P90.6 billion in irrigation appropriations for 2010 ro 2013, of which more than half or P58.76 billion were already disbursed as of end-February 2013.


“While we are happy with the significant amount of government's resources spent on irrigation, we have to make sure the people’s money will not be squandered and the long dream of achieving rice self-sufficiency will be attained,” said R1 co-convenor Jessica Reyes-Cantos.

Regalado also claimed NIA's accomplishment and financial report “has no disaggregated data on expenditures for new irrigation systems, and those for restoration and rehabilitation.”


“Commission on Audit to look deeper into the results of this study and conduct an honest-to-goodness evaluation of the roles of NIA officials in the dismal performance and should be held accountable under the civil service, civil and criminal laws,” she said.


On Tuesday, President Benigno Aquino III unveiled plans to replace NIA administrator Antonio Nangel due to lack of progress in irrigation projects.


The President also ordered a probe on how the agency spent its entire budget. — VS, GMA News