COA flags OVP’s slow use of medical aid funds; Robredo points to election ban
MANILA, Philippines — Despite having the highest audit rating in government the Office of the Vice President (OVP) was still flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA) for its slow use of medical assistance program funds which could have aided more people.
According to COA’s audit report of the OVP for 2019 dated Friday, the office still has yet to utilize its P122.8 million pending medical assistance program (MAP) funds for 2019 — now totaling at P195 million — which could have facilitated financial aid for hospitalized indigents all over the country.
As a result, lesser patients were given assistance. COA said this goes against Presidential Decree 1445 or the Auditing Code of the Philippines, which mandates the efficient management of funds.
COA’s table showed that the OVP has P317.9 million worth of recorded obligation was found on the office’s accomplishment report, but only 38.64 percent or P122.8 million has been delivered to hospitals serving OVP beneficiaries.
“Table 3 also shows that the bigger chunk of the unutilized fund comes from Hospital Fund Transfer, which pertains to fund transfers and funds obligated to Government Hospitals-Implementing Agencies to pay for the GLs (guarantee letter) being provided to qualified individuals,” COA said.
The OVP gives P25,000 assistance for qualified chemotherapy/ radiation/ branchy therapy patients per request; P15,000 for surgeries, operations, transplants, and hospitalization; P10,000 for hemodialysis and implants; and P5,000 for diagnostic and laboratory procedures, and medicines.
The OVP and Vice President Leni Robredo noted that the delays in the disbursement of funds were not due to any corruption-related issue, but more on an issue of prudence as they were not allowed to make expenditures for their programs due to 2019 being an election year.
Earlier, the office took pride in having the highest audit rating from COA for two straight years.
Robredo, seen as the figurehead of the opposition, was involved in the campaign of the opposition bloc’s senatorial slate, Otso Diretso.
In her radio program on Sunday, Robredo also clarified the issues, adding that COA just recommended ways for OVP to make expenditures and programs more efficient.
“Halimbawa […] tinatanong niya (COA) bakit iyong medical assistance program namin noong 2018, parang mababa iyong aming utilization […] nae-explain naman namin kasi 2019 election year. Dahil election year siya bawal gumastos iyong buong time ng kampanya so ilang buwan din iyon,” she said.
(For example, COA asked why our medical assistance program in 2018 appeared to have a low utilization rate. We explained that 2019 was an election year and because it is an election year, we cannot make expenditures the whole time of the campaign period.)
“So iyon iyong ilan sa mga puna. Pero itong minor issues, hindi siya corruption-related,” she added.
(Those are some of the observations. But these are just minor issues, they are not corruption-related.)
The 2019 elections being an issue was confirmed by COA in the same report, citing that OVP failed to get an exemption from the Commission on Elections on expenditures.
Still, COA advised OVP to smoothen processes to facilitate a quicker transfer of MAP funds, to which the latter adhered by doing a shift from giving out cash-based grants to just guarantee letters.
From just 97 beneficiaries from Visayas and 52 from Mindanao using the cash-based grants, the guarantee letter system increased the number of beneficiaries to 736 for Visayas and 1,360 for Mindanao.
“We recommended that Management, in their re-evaluation of the guidelines […] consider alternative service delivery strategies, such as the provision of cash assistance to those who could not avail of the GL, and those who could not access OVP’s Service Delivery Network,” COA said.
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