COA cites DSWD’s epic failure in relief work
The Commission on Audit (COA) has cited total and spectacular failure on the job of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), including millions of pesos worth of unused cash donations and food aid wasted, chronic multiple entries in the conditional cash transfer program, and delays and shortcomings in the delivery of social services, among other failings.
According to COA, P382.072 million in local and foreign cash donations for the victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” were kept idle and locked in the DSWD’s bank accounts. The amount represented 33 percent of the P1.151 billion that the DSWD received from November 2013 to December 2014.
“Considering the lapse of two years since the amount was received and [that] the work and financial plan were laid down for the type of assistance to be extended to the victims, the unutilized funds resulted in beneficiaries not being provided with the immediate assistance due them,” said the COA in its 2014 annual audit report on the DSWD, released Sept. 10.
Aside from failing to maximize donations, the COA said the DSWD had been left with P141.084 million worth of undistributed and expired or about-to-expire family food packs (FFPs)—a package contains 6 kilograms of rice, four tins of sardines, four tins of corned beef, eight packs of instant noodles and eight sachets of instant coffee.
The COA cited abysmal management on the part of the DSWD as it continued to procure and accept relief goods without taking into consideration the absorptive capacity and condition of its warehousing facilities and personnel, available stocks, shelf life or expiry dates and the actual needs of the victims.
According to COA, it made the recommendation—to which Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman agreed—that the officials concerned be ordered to fast-track the provision of the much-needed assistance to the victims or beneficiaries.
Otherwise, the unutilized funds should be surrendered to the National Treasury and only requested for release when needed, it said.
No ‘actual irregularities’
Soliman, in e-mail and text messages to the Inquirer, said the COA audit findings do not mean that there were “actual irregularities” but that they were part of government routine to enhance operations.
She explained that the unspent amount had already been “allocated and obligated to livelihood projects and cash for work.”
The DSWD management said that it had reduced the idled donations to P338.519 million as of June 15 this year. It said P150.832 million has been allocated to the ongoing work program for Yolanda victims. It also said that Soliman had ordered that all donated funds should be spent before July this year.
Soliman claimed that there were no rotten goods in DSWD warehouses as these were all distributed to families needing assistance.
“Responding to the needs of disaster victims is of primary importance to us and that since we take this responsibility seriously, we ensure that goods are not wasted and that they benefit the people,” she said.
Threats and calamities
The food packs in question were amassed by the DSWD central office and regional offices in Western and Central Visayas and the Zamboanga Peninsula in the face of these threats or calamities: the Mayon Volcano eruption in October 2014, Typhoons “Ruby” and “Seniang” in December 2014, and the spillover effects from Yolanda and the Zamboanga siege in late 2013.
The COA cited the following shortcomings: the lack of warehousing facilities for the failure to repack and distribute the food packs for the Mayon Volcano evacuees; half a million noodles were shipped out two months before their expiry date (some regions claimed they did not request for noodles); some of the canned goods were expired, mislabeled (no expiry dates indicated) and/or with dented or rusty tin cans; poor and careless stockpiling of rice and other perishable goods; mismatch in the quantity of goods; and miscalculation in the prepositioning of FFPs.
Aside from the unused donations and wasted food packs, the COA also cited the lack of documentation in the distribution of relief goods and failure to complete a pilot evacuation center in Oton, Iloilo province.
In its reply, the DSWD blamed the early decampment of the evacuation center in Legazpi City, which led to the glut in family food packs but that these were distributed to other areas. The DSWD said that it has stopped the procurement of instant noodles due to its short shelf life and that it had made steps to improve warehousing.
According to the DSWD, the undistributed goods being referred to were those prepositioned at the National Resource Operations Center, the DSWD’s main warehouse located in Pasay City, intended to replenish family food packs for families affected by the eruption of Mayon Volcano in 2014.
Local authorities then projected a 90-day disaster operations in connection with the Mayon eruption.
However, when local authorities announced that evacuees could already return to their places of origin earlier than what was projected, disaster operations also were terminated. The DSWD’s Field Office V said that their remaining stocks would suffice to cover the recovery efforts for the affected families.
So as to avoid wastage of the noodles in the family food packs which only had a six-month shelf life, the food packs were distributed to the centers and institutions in Bicol region for the food-for-work program.
“Thus, the goods were not wasted and did not expire at all because these were distributed before the expiration date,” Soliman said.
In its value-for-money audit, the COA cited chronic multiple or double entries of the DSWD’s multibillion-peso cash transfer program, or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), which it had pointed out in its 2012 and 2013 audits. It said the deletions and change in addresses of beneficiaries were not synchronized in 2014. In the November to December 2014 4Ps payroll alone, the COA identified 1,872 new multiple or duplicate beneficiaries which got P3.54 million, or an estimated P21.241 million in six pay-out periods.
The DSWD claimed it has taken action in weeding out the duplicates and updating its database since the COA submitted its findings last April. It said it was also tapping a service provider for data warehousing to improve its database.
Land Bank windfall
Aside from multiple entries, the COA said the DSWD has yet to resolve the issue of cash grants left idle in its depository banks. In 2014, unutilized grants in the Land Bank of the Philippines have reached P656.907 million. As of June this year, the unclaimed funds have been reduced to P312 million.
The COA also noted that Landbank earned a windfall of P214.022 million in service fees on 4Ps transactions that were done over the counter and not through ATM cards last year. COA said this amount could have been “reduced, saved and used instead as additional grants for distribution to beneficiaries.” In the last three years, LBP has already earned a total of P744 million in unnecessary service fees.
Delays, failures in services
The COA said the DSWD supplemental feeding program suffered delays because of poor coordination and monitoring between its regional offices and the Department of Education and local government units.
The DSWD blamed lack of manpower, late submission of project proposals and master list of beneficiaries. It also said that delays in fund releases and warehouse problems of the National Food Authority also compounded the DSWD’s woes in implementing this program meant to ensure the proper nutrition of children.
The COA also said that the DSWD failed to reach the 80 percent performance target for its Kapit-bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI-CIDSS) aimed at providing capital support to indigent communities. It said 47 out of 77 municipalities failed to come up with their commitment to shoulder 30 percent of the project costs.
The COA said the DSWD was less than transparent in its reports on the project and failed to sanction erring municipalities.
The DSWD countered that a World Bank Implementation Completion and Results Report showed that the agency exceeded its target, but it did not submit a copy to COA.
The COA noted that out of P1.319 billion worth of projects, only 33.47 percent of projects worth P353.693 million were completed. From these completed projects, around 20 percent were not functioning or defective. The DSWD said the KALAHI projects were delayed because of lack of interest among contractors, some projects were affected by Typhoon Ruby in the fourth quarter of 2014, and funding preparations were slow.
The DSWD claimed that it has substantially improved its performance under the KALAHI program since it obtained the COA report.
The COA also criticized the DSWD for delays and non-payments in its Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens (SPISC) program, with 48 percent, or 55,496, of the 116,637 beneficiaries failing to claim their pensions. The DSWD cited the confusion in the implementing guidelines, lack of public information, and failure to locate the beneficiaries who have changed addresses.
The COA cited shortcomings in the DSWD’s Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS), and in particular the agency’s failure to follow its guidelines such as giving burial, educational and medical aid directly to claimants instead of service providers; and giving assistance more than once every three months without any justification.
The COA said that the DSWD only used 47 percent of the P4 billion allocated for AICS in 2014 even though it served nearly double the 281,079 beneficiaries targeted for the year.
Raise public awareness
“The reported low disbursements exceeding the target beneficiaries could mean that the projected fund is excessive or the amounts distributed are at the minimum,” said COA which recommended that the DSWD increase public awareness on the AICS and its benefits.
The COA reported that the DSWD was remiss in the fulfilling of its commitment in the Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) program as it has only spent P3 billion to serve 142,348 beneficiaries, or just 30 percent of the 468,732 targeted homeless beneficiaries.
Soliman blamed the funding gap for the delayed ESA deployment as the P11 billion remaining funds were only released in May this year. Soliman said that the ESA had been fully deployed as of July this year.—Gil Cabacungan
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