DOLE’s P 1.572-B unliquidated cash advances prone to ‘misuse’ – COA
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Audit (COA) has called out the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) for accumulating P1.572 billion in unliquidated cash advances which the audit agency said might be prone to “misuse.”
In its 2020 report on the Dole, the COA said the unliquidated funds were cash advances granted to labor attachés and other officers for the implementation of the department’s various COVID-19 programs, such as its COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (Camp), Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers #Barangay ko, Bahay ko (Tupad #BKBK) and Abot-Kamay ang Pagtulong (Akap).
Camp and Akap involved the grant of financial assistance to affected workers and displaced overseas workers, while Tupad #BKBK provided emergency employment for displaced workers.
The DOLE said it would address the matter on Monday.
The DOLE central office had the biggest chunk of unliquidated funds amounting to P974.513 million.
The COA said advances for operating expenses totaling P888.714 million in the central office remained unliquidated for 91 days to over three years, while P519,500 has not yet been liquidated although the purposes for this fund have already been served.
Advances to special disbursing officers for the implementation of Tupad were also not fully liquidated by the end of 2020.
In DOLE Region 1, the bulk of unliquidated cash advances amounting to P35.88 million was granted in December that year for the payment of Tupad wages under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, or Bayanihan 2.
In Region 3, a total of P93.099 million remained unliquidated. The COA said the regional office chose to distribute the amount to beneficiaries of Tupad under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act through direct implementation and through cash advances.
Other funds that were not fully liquidated include travel and special purpose activities.
The DOLE also granted additional cash advances to officers with outstanding balances.
For example, special disbursing officers in Region 13 were granted cash advances as much as 29 times in a month for payment of wages of Tupad and Government Internship Program beneficiaries, and for COVID-19 financial assistance.
These were approved without requiring the settlement of previous advances.
The COA has asked the DOLE to demand from officers with outstanding balances the submission of liquidation documents and the refund of any excess amounts.
State auditors also advised the department to stop the granting of additional cash advances to those with unliquidated funds.
The COA earlier cited excessive payments, denied claims, and unclaimed assistance in the DOLE’s COVID-19 programs for its beneficiaries.
The COA sought to confirm with DOLE’s beneficiaries the receipt of their aid. But only about a quarter of some 18,000 beneficiaries responded, with 221 denying receiving aid estimated at almost P2 million.
The audit body also noted that P22.432 million in unclaimed assistance plus service fees amounting to P83,190 were still with remittance centers tapped by as many as 10 regional offices of the Dole.
Other beneficiaries said they got less than the assistance that was due them. One said the assistance extended to him was deducted from his pay.
An opposition lawmaker on Sunday called on the DOLE to investigate the deficiencies and possible fraud in the handling of its COVID-19 funds.
Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III should launch a probe, following the COA’s findings.
The lawmaker said millions of funds could have gone to the pockets of some officials due to “fraudulent activities.”
“Secretary Bello will face us in the coming 2022 budget hearings, and we will surely bring this issue to the table,” Gaite said.
He said further that the COA’s findings on deficiencies in the handling of pandemic funds among various agencies was “another indictment of the Duterte administration’s numerous flawed programs to mitigate the impact of its equally flawed militarized lockdown.”
“These COA reports really complete the picture of what the public has been labeling as ‘palpak’ (sloppy) [government].” he said.
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