THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Sunday that 24 employees of the National Food Authority (NFA) had their suspensions lifted, with the initial findings against them ruled to have been based on erroneous data.

In a statement, the DA said the two dozen employees were among the 141 NFA employees who had been suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman over the irregular sale of NFA inventories.

Agriculture Secretary Francisco P. Tiu Laurel, Jr. said he hopes the Ombudsman will allow more NFA staff to return to work.

“We hope that more suspensions will be lifted in due time so that NFA operations will normalize,” Mr. Laurel said.

Ombudsman Samuel R. Martires was quoted as saying that the suspensions were lifted after it found erroneous data on the list of employees provided by the department.

Mr. Laurel said that the DA only forwarded the list it received from the NFA without verifying its accuracy because of the urgency of the request.

“The list was given to us by the NFA, and we just forwarded it to the Ombudsman, believing that (it) is current and up-to-date,” Mr. Laurel said.

The Ombudsman had questioned the transactions involving the disposal of rice stocks because NFA officials had “unilaterally select(ed) the commercial rice traders/millers/buyers” participating in the sale.

The NFA, a government-owned and -controlled corporation, is required to sell old rice in inventory at up to a 10% discount to the mandated price of between P22.5 and P25 per kilo. — Justine Irish D.  Tabile