DSWD failed storm victims, says COA
Where’s the roof?
Tens of thousands of storm victims spent the past three Christmases without permanent shelters due to the failure of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to build homes for them despite receiving
P2.57 billion for such purpose, a report of state auditors showed.
The Commission on Audit (COA) said a portion of the cash assistance for the victims of Tropical Storm “Sendong” in Mindanao in 2011 was used “for other purposes not directly related” to helping them recover from the disaster.
The COA also discovered that more than P1.8 billion in Disbursement
Acceleration Program (DAP) funds allocated to the department in 2013 had remained unliquidated.
These were among the findings of the agency’s audit team that conducted a review of the DSWD’s financial transactions. The 135-page COA report was received by the office of Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman on Dec. 15.
“We request a status report on the actions taken on the audit recommendations within 60 days from date of receipt thereof,” read the letter to Soliman signed by COA director Cora Lea de la Cruz.
In a text message to the Inquirer on Thursday, the social welfare secretary said she would answer the issues regarding the COA report at a news briefing at the DSWD headquarters on Friday.
The construction of 30,438 housing units with an approved budget of P2.131 billion has yet to be “started and/or [the] funds [remained] unutilized due to varying constraints and problems,” the COA said.
The report said the DSWD was supposed to build a total of 36,399 units worth P2.571 billion in areas ravaged by violent weather disturbances since 2011. (On Dec. 4, 2012, Typhoon “Pablo” made landfall in Mindanao, leaving 1,607 dead, 834 missing and P37 billion worth of damage to infrastructure and property. The year before, more than 1,400 people died from Sendong.)
State auditors said the failure of the DSWD to promptly start the shelter program was “denying the disaster victims/beneficiaries of the immediate access to decent shelters.”
The auditors said it might also lead to “construction materials/resources to possible misuse, losses and wastage.”
“[The delay in the] completion of the core shelter units is tantamount to failure to address the immediate needs of family-victims of disaster, thus, defeating the very purpose of the program,” the COA said.
Under its Core Shelter Assistance Project, the DSWD provides P70,000 in cash grants to every family whose house was destroyed by natural calamities.
The houses, however, should be environment-friendly and can withstand winds of up to 220 kilometers per hour and Intensity IV earthquakes.
The permanent shelters must be built in relocation sites identified by the national government or local government units “using locally available materials to revitalize local economy,” the COA said.
The DSWD also distributes cash aid amounting to up to P7,000 to each resident whose house was partially damaged by storms and P10,000 each to owners of destroyed houses.
It may also provide P30,000 in cash assistance “to augment resources of families in constructing houses in relocation sites provided for the purposes and using locally available materials.”
Lack of support, feuds
Problems regarding the titles of relocation sites, bad weather, lack of support from local government units, feuding local politicians and the failure to closely monitor the status of the project were among the reasons cited by the COA auditors for the DSWD’s failure to complete its shelter program.
For instance, the mayor of Boac town, Marinduque province, was not interested in implementing the government’s housing program for typhoon survivors.
There were also cases of beneficiaries failing to build their houses after they received financial assistance. In some areas, survivors opted to move in to their partially finished houses without windows and doors, exposing them to the elements.
“Some construction materials were abandoned, destroyed [or] deteriorating. [W]ork delays in some areas are due to scarcity of materials,” the COA said.
To avoid these problems, the COA urged the DSWD to carry out “regular ocular inspection to determine whether project funds are utilized according to the objectives of the program.”
It asked DSWD officials to submit reports “duly supported with actual accomplishments as well as the status of unoccupied shelters.”
The audit team asked Soliman to order her field officers not to release the cash assistance until the relocation sites were already available.
“Supervise and monitor the proper implementation of the [housing] program to enable the completion and proper utilization of core shelter units,” the COA said.
“In the case of unfinished/unconstructed units reported in current/prior years, demand from [local government units] concerned [that they] comply with their obligations as agreed upon in the MOA (memorandum of agreement) with the DSWD,” it added.
In its scrutiny of the P449.4 million in trust funds for Sendong victims, the audit agency found out that P3 million was used for the construction of the Disaster Relief Operation building, also called the Crisis Intervention Unit (CIU) building.
“The construction of [the] CIU building was not one of the prioritized items identified in the notice of transfer of funds,” the COA said.
It reminded the DSWD that the financial aid for the victims was intended “purely and solely for the welfare of the immediate victims.”
“[U]sing such fund for the construction of the CIU building, which generally caters not only to the direct victims but to anybody under crisis situation, is contrary to the purpose of the creation of trust funds,” it added.
While it noted the CIU building’s importance in providing psychosocial help to residents in times of crisis, the COA said the construction of the building may be done using other funds.
As of Dec. 31, 2013, or more than two years after Sendong ravaged several provinces in Mindanao, the COA said only P346.895 million, or 77 percent of the budget, had been released.
In its report, the COA called the attention of the DSWD to its failure to properly report the use of P1.815 billion in DAP funds released to the department.
In July, the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional the savings-impounding mechanism introduced by the Aquino administration to bankroll several big-ticket projects, such as road construction in the provinces.
State auditors said P1.315 billion of the DSWD’s DAP funds went to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority for its government internship program, while P500 million was transferred to the Commission on Higher Education for its cash assistance program for students of state universities and colleges.
“To date, the amounts remained unliquidated without any recorded liquidation to document disbursements of the funds transferred,” the COA said.
It said more than P110 million of the department’s DAP allocation was used for 108 daycare centers built by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and for the “cash-for-work” program for the construction of 100 housing units.
Originally posted at 7:47 pm | Tuesday, December 25, 2014
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