COA to CHR: Improve processing of aid to rights victims
MANILA, Philippines — State auditors have reminded the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to improve its processing of P2.63 million worth of financial aid to victims of human rights violations.
The Commission on Audit (COA) reported that 174 out of the 291 approved beneficiaries, or 60 percent, of the CHR’s Community and Rehabilitation Financial Assistance program had not yet received support totaling P183,000.
Of the P2.63 million under the program, P1.83 million had been released to 117 claimants in the regions of Ilocos, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, and Soccsksargen, the COA’s 2020 audit report said.
The delays in the release of funds, the COA said, were due to claimants having insufficient contact information and requests for additional funding.
“Had the CHR undertaken proper measures on the timely establishment of permanent contact number and address of the approved claimants, and processing of payments and request for additional fund early on, the benefits could have been given right away to the victims of human rights violations who were in dire need of financial assistance, thus the purpose of the grants, that is, timely humanitarian services from the government, is not defeated,” the audit body said.
It advised the CHR to require its regional offices to improve payment processing by gathering the needed documents and beneficiaries’ contact information.
The regional offices were also told to study trends on the number of applicants and probable beneficiaries so funding requests could cover an increase in the number of beneficiaries.
The CHR grants claims for financial assistance as a supplemental measure for a case of human rights violations filed at the agency.
Financial assistance includes survivorship benefits, rehabilitation assistance, aid under Republic Act No. 9710, or the Magna Carta of Women, benefits for children in conflict with the law, aid for internally displaced persons as victims of counterinsurgency, and aid for human rights violations against marginalized and vulnerable sectors.
As of Dec. 31, 2020, the CHR’s regional offices in Metro Manila, Ilocos, Calabarzon, Mimaropa and Soccsksargen regions approved 291 claimants who were supposed to receive P2.63 million.
Calabarzon had the biggest amount of financial aid at P1.27 million for 64 claimants, while Mimaropa had the least amount of aid at P205,000 for eight beneficiaries.
Metro Manila had the least number of claimants at three. They were supposed to receive P240,000 in aid but have yet to get their checks.
Only 117 of the 291 claimants, or 40 percent, received financial assistance worth P1.83 million. The 174, or 60 percent, who have not received their money included 35 whose contact information with the CHR was insufficient, affecting the release of checks and the processing of benefit claims.
A total of 139 other claims were affected by delayed requests for more funding.
The COA also called out the CHR for P11.258 million in advances for operating expenses in its regional offices, which the audit body said remained unliquidated as of the end of 2020.
The CHR’s Calabarzon office had the biggest accumulated cash advance balance at P 5.511 million, or 49 percent, of the total P11.258 million.
Metro Manila had the lowest accumulated balance at P8,901.52, or 0.1 percent, while a regional suboffice in Western Visayas had no accumulated balance.
State auditors noted that the accumulation of cash advances was due to the failure of CHR regional offices to use the funds due to delays in procurement of equipment and other requirements amid restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Delays in disbursements caused delays in the submission of reports on the cash in bank register and on disbursement within five days after the end of each month.
“Ultimately, advances for operating expenses of P11,258,242.15 remained unliquidated as of Dec. 31, 2020, defeating the purpose for which these funds were transferred or granted,” the COA said.
The CHR was told to instruct its offices to immediately liquidate advances for operating expenses within 20 days after the end of the year, issue a demand letter for unliquidated advances and step up procurement activities to ensure the timely liquidation of advances.
The COA also cited P1.013 million in disbursements made by several CHR regional offices, which were not supported with complete documentation. This, it said, “cast doubt on the validity, legality and propriety of the transactions.”
The disbursements in question were made by CHR offices in the Cordillera Administrative Region, Central Luzon, Mimaropa and Soccsksargen.
These involved fund releases for purchases of prepaid cards, repairs and maintenance of motor vehicles, office rentals, reimbursement of travel expenses, catering services, purchases of personal hygiene kits, salaries of contractual employees, utility bills and Zoom subscriptions.
The disbursements lacked supporting documents like receipts, detailed breakdowns and other documents required by the COA.
“In the absence of complete documentation to support the disbursement of government funds, the audit teams could not determine the validity, propriety of the transactions and legality of the claims,” the state auditors said.
They also reminded the CHR to require their accountants to comply with the rules and regulations on the timely submission of financial reports and other supporting documents. Delayed submission “precluded the audit team from conducting timely audit and early detection and/or correction of errors,” they added.
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