COA finds P923M in idle disaster funds
CALAMITY funds in the hundreds of millions coursed through a Department of National Defense (DND) agency in charge of disaster management have been sitting idle in a bank for years, according to the Commission on Audit (COA).
In its 2014 annual report released recently, the COA criticized the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) for the “very low” utilization rate of quick relief funds (QRF) and donations intended for disaster victims.
State auditors said the unused QRF allocated to the OCD had ballooned to P923 million as of the end of last year.
The amount “was not utilized as envisioned and became idle, thus depriving the intended beneficiaries of the benefits,” the audit body said.
The OCD administers the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
The COA said that out of P466 million in foreign and local donations received by the NDRRMC for various disasters since 2008, only P81 million, or 17 percent, had been disbursed as of last year.
The biggest donation was the P137 million received by the NDRRMC after Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) devastated the Visayas in November 2013.
The COA said the OCD had released only P38.7 million as of the end of 2014, leaving P98.2 million untouched more than a year after the catastrophe.
Even donations for calamities as far back as 2013 remained intact, auditors said.
The audit body said the unused donations totaling P384.95 million were kept by the OCD in a trust account in the Development Bank of the Philippines where it had earned P1.709 million in interest.
Returned to donors
The COA said the unused funds should have been turned over to the Bureau of the Treasury or returned to the donors.
The funds could have been used for other important government projects, it said.
The COA recommended that the OCD come up with specific guidelines on how to utilize donations according to the functions of each member agency of the NDRRMC.
It also urged the DND to inform the Department of Budget and Management to reallocate the QRF in order to “provide only what is necessary in the performance” of the OCD’s functions.
“Viewed from the huge amount of releases to the OCD compared to [what was] utilized, it appears that the respective functions of each of the players in the NDRRMC were not considered in the release of funds,” the COA said.
“As could be deduced from the status of the QRF, there was no planned action of activities for the release of funds resulting in the low rate of utilization, thus, depriving the intended beneficiaries,” it said.
“We noted that it takes time before calamity victims are extended the necessary assistance due to the claimant’s long period of compliance with the documentary requirements,” the COA said.
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