Aside from looking into the culpability of the Benedicto Bernal, warehousing officer of the NFA in Badian town, Deputy Ombudsman Pelagio Apostol said they will review the NFA’s internal monitoring and the COA audit reports.
“We will also look if there are lapses in the quarterly inventory of the NFA and the annual audit reports by COA. Why this rice pilferage appears to be going on since 2007,” Apostol said.
He added that investigators will also try to smoke out other people involved in the anomaly.
Bernal, who is at the center of the controvery, has taken a leave of absence on Monday, Nov. 19 or the next working day after he personally received the demand letter from the NFA regional office in Banilad asking him to account for the P10, 628, 095.09 shortage of imported rice and imported iron-fortified rice.
According to NFA’s regional public information officer Lucy Rosales, Bernal is suffering from a medical condition and took a sick leave to see a doctor.
Cebu Daily News however, managed to contact Bernal on the phone, but he politely declined to comment on the case..
“Wa sa koy comment ana. (I have no comment on that.). Thank you.”
Rosales said it took some time before the NFA discovered the irregularity as they only check on the accountability of an employee when he files for retirement or gets reassigned.
“We do not do this accountability check on a monthly basis,” she said.
On Wednesday, Deputy Ombudsman Apostol said they will start investigating the case even without a formal complaint as the controversy has been reported by media.
He said investigators will gather data and documents from the NFA and COA and will question possible witnesses. Should a case be filed against Bernal, he will automatically be placed under preventive suspension.
“It can be malversation, anti-graft, if there is negligence in his part, we can file gross inexcusable negligence because of the large amount of shortage in the rice stocks he handled,” he said.
NFA Central Visayas regional director Efren Sabong had ordered Bernal to account for the rice stored in the Badian warehouse last Oct. 10.
Records from the NFA indicate Bernal handled P17.5 million worth of imported rice and P3.457.76 million worth of imported iron-fortified rice from March 16, 2017 to June 1, 2012.
The NFA central office noted during its inventory that there is shortage of about 195 tons of ordinary imported rice and about 108 tons of imported iron-fortified rice. /Carine M. Asutilla, Correspondent