Senate blue ribbon panel to probe DOH’s use of COVID-19 funds
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate blue ribbon committee will open next week an investigation into how the Department of Health (DOH) handled over P67 billion of its COVID-19 pandemic response fund in 2020, which state auditors earlier found to have deficiencies.
“Bubuksan ko yang [I will open a] blue ribbon [investigation] on Wednesday just to ask the Department of Health why they cannot spend the [P67] billion that was given to them,” Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the committee, said Friday in an online forum on the country’s vaccination program organized by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority.
“I do not want to fix the blame, I just want to fix the problem and to make sure that they do that. They have to answer to our countrymen on why we’re not able to do what we’re supposed to do,” he added.
The blue ribbon committee looks into the accountability of public officers.
In its 2020 report, the Commission on Audit (COA) found deficiencies in how the DOH managed P67.32 billion of its fund to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that it contributed to challenges that the country faced during the health crisis.
Aside from the COA report, the blue ribbon investigation will also cover other issues related to DOH’s budget utilization, with a particular focus on its pandemic spending.
Based on the committee schedule posted on the Senate website, the investigation will be conducted motu proprio or through the own initiative of the panel.
The DOH earlier said it is addressing the deficiencies marked by COA.
The health agency also maintained that it has exerted efforts to effectively implement provisions of the two Bayanihan laws, “more particularly those health responses in this time of a state of calamity or national emergency amidst varying challenges.”
Reacting to COA’s findings, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has assured all transactions of the DOH are accounted for and documented, otherwise officials and employees would go to jail.
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