The little agency that could
From Frankfurt to Iloilo—this was quite a journey, but with good reason. Upon arrival from the Frankfurter Buchmesse, the National Book Development Board (NBDB) flew to Iloilo to receive a special award—a Hall of Fame distinction for best accounting office in government for three consecutive years. This is a special citation from the Association of Government Accountants of the Philippines (Agap, which marks its 70th year in 2020) as vetted by the dreaded Commission on Audit. That says a lot, knowing how strict the COA is, and that this is a “competition” an agency does not apply for. Only its financial statement speaks for the agency; this year’s award was based on 2017 accounting reports.
At the Iloilo Convention Center awards ceremony, NBDB executive director Jerry G. Tizon, administrative and financial services division head Flordeliz Amante Abiad and I stood tall and proud. The award spoke of the hard work and discipline of our 23-year-old agency, mandated to provide incentives to the publishing industry to make it globally competitive and, yes, to promote a culture of reading in the country. Pardon me for bragging, but we are the only attached agency of the Department of Education to be so honored.
It was announced that the stringent criteria were based on the timeliness, accuracy, reliability and completeness of financial documents. The category awardees were for local governments, government corporations, state universities and colleges and other executive offices.
This is actually the fourth time the NBDB has been cited, but our consecutive run covered only 2015, 2016 and 2017 financial statements.
The only other Hall of Famer was the National Tax Research Center, an attached agency of the Department of Finance. The Pag-Ibig Fund was cited for the fourth consecutive year. We Hall of Famers are now being challenged to continue on beyond the third year, for the seventh consecutive year is the Platinum Award. The NBDB accepts the challenge!
Congratulations to the lively and energetic Agap president, Department of Budget and Management Undersecretary Tina Rose Marie Canda, for conveying that honest and accurate financial accounting in government offices is cool.
Abiad, who says in jest that she has been with the NBDB since birth (hers and the agency’s), heads the administrative and financial services division and has the invaluable support of her staff: Godwin Mijares, Alda Murillo, Sylvia Mendoza, Neira Castro, Rhonnell Dacio, Jayson Ramos, Rodel dela Cruz, Edgar Molo, Minda Reyes, Gemma Bermudes, Alexander Lumbo, Rencie Magtulis. Thanks to them for their commitment to keep the name of the NBDB untarnished and unsullied by any hint of controversy. It is not an easy task for a government agency to maintain such a no-nonsense image, when falling by the wayside appears to be the norm.
Abiad has proven her mettle so many times over. She watches hawk-eyed over our budget, admittedly not as large as we would want it, but now fast growing to match our literacy dreams. I only feel secure at marathon budget hearings with her presence. The government, mainly through the passionate efforts of Sen. Loren Legarda and other like-minded officials, has finally taken notice of the crucial role this little agency should play in our national development. Yes, arts and culture and literacy lead a nation to greatness.
This award of a huge and weighty trophy and a generous cash prize only given to Hall of Famers is gratifying. But more important is that it proves that, as the NBDB continues to receive a more generous budget each year, it can always be trusted to spend government funds wisely and well. That kind of trust takes years to build.
Neni Sta. Romana Cruz (nenisrcruz@ gmail.com) is chair of the National Book Development Board and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.
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