More COA findings on DOH: P45.89-B spending lacks documents
The Department of Health (DOH) last year spent about P45.89 billion in transactions not backed by required documents, according to a part of the annual audit report that was published last week by the Commission on Audit (COA), which raised doubts about the regularity of the expenditures.
The amount included P16.7 million in disbursements that were not stamped “paid,” nearly P1 billion in procurement for seven regions in the country and P42.35 billion in fund transfers.
“Governmental transactions in the total amount of P45,89,113,881.04 were not supported with complete documentary requirements, contrary to law and regulations and casted doubts on the validity, regularity and propriety of transactions,” the COA report said.
It warned that “the practice of not stamping paid all disbursement vouchers and its supporting documents after payment is susceptible to double payment of claims.”
Of the P999,512,744.54 used for procurement in the seven regions, the DOH central office in the National Capital Region (NCR) accounted for the bulk, or about P735.28 million.
17 major hospitals
The remainder of the procurement fund not accompanied by complete documentary requirements went to 17 major hospitals in the NCR and in Regions 2, 3, 7, 9, 11, and the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which is now called the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao).
The report showed that there was also “incomplete submission of documentary requirements” for the P42,123,422,526.52 transferred to the central office and the P228,880,293.43 that went to the center for health development in Region 11.
The COA report had strongly rebuked the DOH for numerous “deficiencies” in the use of a P67.32-billion fund, which undermined the timely and efficient response to the pandemic last year and the more than P95 million in medicines and supplies that had been wasted.
It also lamented the failure of the DOH to use P11.8 billion of the pandemic response fund, which could have gone to much-needed health supplies, equipment and services to benefit health workers and the general public during the first year of the pandemic.
‘More than enough’
Up to P59.124 billion also was unspent in the P200.9-billion DOH budget in 2020 which would have been “more than enough to affect the level of efficiency” in managing the COVID-19 funds in relation to the department’s “implementation capabilities” and its response to the national health emergency.
The COA said that the P45.89 billion not covered by proper documentation also included P365.27-million special risk allowance payments and P84.56-million COVID-19 hazard pay for health-care workers.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has assured the public, including lawmakers, during House and Senate hearings this week that all the questioned funds were “properly allocated.”
When the first reports on the DOH spending appeared last week, Malacañang and lawmakers demanded that the health department and Duque account for the reported deficiencies.
“We are not belittling the COA observations. These are very serious observations and we expect comprehensive and clear answers,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told reporters last week.
He added that President Duterte would withhold judgment before final reports were submitted by the DOH and COA.
On Thursday, he said the final reports could be used as part of the evidence in a court case.
“Since the President is a lawyer, he knows how to read a COA report. But as of now, these preliminary observations do not mean anything yet,” Roque said at a press briefing.
He said the President would not hesitate to dismiss anyone found to be involved in corruption in the use of state funds.
“Given how many people the President has sacked due to corruption, there is no doubt that if there is really evidence, they will be fired, fired, fired,” Roque said.He said that in Mr. Duterte’s experience, government agencies were usually able to explain initial findings by state auditors.
Roque: ‘Let’s be cool’
“So as of now, my advice is, let us be cool because these points could still be answered. Let us wait for the final reports,” he said.
Roque urged government agencies to respond to the COA’s findings “promptly and in a detailed manner” so that these “observations” could be clarified.
Mr. Duterte on Monday blasted the COA for releasing “preliminary” reports that he said gave the impression that government agencies were involved in corruption when their transactions just lacked supporting documents.
Failure in other agencies
COA auditors also had similar findings of failure to fully use pandemic funds to help affected sectors in their scrutiny of the Department of Agriculture and Department of Transportation.
The COA publishes its annual audit reports with its observations about the concerned agency along with recommendations.
Responding to Duque’s allegations that state auditors made an “unfair, unjust judgment” on the DOH and health officials were not given time to respond, COA Chair Michael Aguinaldo on Tuesday said “it is not correct to say that they were not heard” and that there were several meetings and an exit conference with the health department before the report was released. —WITH A REPORT FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA
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