DOH asked why about P23B worth of COVID-19 funds were not used
A lawmaker questioned why the Department of Health (DOH) failed to use funds worth P23 billion allocated for the department in 2022.
The money was supposed to go to public health programs that mostly related to the campaigns against COVID-19.
During the hearing of the House committee on appropriations on Thursday, Marikina second district representative Stella Quimbo asked why DOH had substantial “unobligated funds.”
Unobligated funds are appropriated allocations that remained uncommitted or not bound by contracts at the end of the fiscal year.
Quimbo said while the department’s Special Allotment Release Order showed an obligation or usage rate of 87 percent, the unobligated funds still amounted to P23 billion.
She pointed out certain “weak links” that pushed obligation rates down.
For example, she said P4.6 billion of the P 7.9 billion funds for COVID-19 lab network commodities were unobligated.
This represented an obligation rate of only 41 percent, she lamented.
Health officer-in-charge Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire provided the answer.
She explained most of the unobligated funds were meant to procure items needed in COVID-19 tests.
“Around P4.2 billion would be allocated for commodities which are RT-PCR kits [and] antigen kits. Other funds were for health emergency hiring because we had to deploy personnel to laboratories for the conduct of these tests,” Vergeire said.
When Quimbo asked why DOH failed to use, allow bidding, and procure the test kits, Vergeire recalled the number of COVID-19 cases during that period went down.
This development spurred changes in policies and guidelines as lesser tests were required.
“We were having decreasing cases already. We [had] changed our guidelines. That’s why the demand decreased, and our procurement was not fully utilized,” Vergeire explained.
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