By Stephanie Sevillano

PALAY PROCUREMENT. Local farmers sell their dry palay to the National Food Authority (NFA) in San Ildefonso, Bulacan on Friday (June 7, 2024). The NFA assured continuous palay procurement in NFA warehouses nationwide despite the ongoing probe into the alleged improper sale of rice buffer stock. (PNA photo by Ben Briones)

MANILA – More reforms are being implemented to ensure efficient and transparent operations in the National Food Authority (NFA), according to Administrator Larry Lacson.

In an ambush interview over the weekend, Lacson said these include invitations for on-the-ground inspections of NFA warehouses by NFA council members.

Sa totoo lang ang boss talaga natin (Honestly, the real boss) is the NFA council, not the Administrator. They are the ones saying what NFA should do,” Lacson said.

Isa sa mga programa ko, nilalapit ko iyong NFA council sa heart ng operation ng NFA, for them to appreciate ano ba iyong mga mahirap o (One of my programs is I am bringing the NFA council closer to the heart of the NFA’s operations, for them to appreciate what’s hard or the) challenges that we are facing,” he added.

He said actual inspection of warehouses is very important in assessing the current demand for budget, manpower, procedural adjustments, and drying facilities, among others, with the presence of representatives from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

For the drying facilities alone, Lacson said the NFA cannot accommodate all the volume of wet palay coming in the next harvest season due to limitations in equipment, which is why they need to secure contracts with external entities.

“They are really happy and they appreciate iyong ganung ginagawa natin sa ngayon (what we are doing right now), which they described as a ‘first-time experience.’ And we will continue that, and it will become a regular thing in NFA,” he said.

Following the warehouse inspections in Bulacan, the NFA plans to inspect NFA sites in Eastern Visayas.

Meanwhile, Lacson said they are studying plans to simplify and speed up procedures for the rotation of warehouse supervisors to prevent familiarity and irregularity.

Aside from preventing familiarity, he said a regular rotation will also help warehouse supervisors acquire best practices from other branches nationwide.

However, he admitted that the move is proving to be “quite challenging” as it entails tedious, lengthy, and even expensive technical prerequisites in transferring accountability from one warehouse supervisor to another.

“That’s what I’m trying to think how we can make that fast,” he said.

Lacson said the NFA is also reviewing all its procurement procedures to prevent similar mistakes from the past.

He is also hoping that the Ombudsman would lift more suspension orders against warehouse supervisors to normalize all other procurement programs within the agency.

To date, around 46 out of the 141 NFA officials and employees remain under preventive suspension over their alleged involvement in the questionable sale of NFA rice buffer stock. (PNA)