State auditors have flagged the Department of Health (DOH) over several deficiencies in its utilization of P67.32 billion in COVID-19 funds.
In its annual report for 2020, the Commission on Audit (COA) said the deficiencies were mainly caused by non-compliance with laws, rules, and regulations.
“These deficiencies contributed to the challenges encountered and missed opportunities by the DOH during the time of state of calamity/national emergency, and casted doubts on the regularity of related transactions,” auditors said.
COA found that P42.41 billion intended for the DOH’s COVID-19 response was transferred to procurement or implementing partner agencies without a memorandum of agreement and other supporting documents.
State auditors also flagged allotments totaling P11.89 billion that remained unobligated as of December 31 last year.
Other major deficiencies noted by COA were procedural gaps in the procurement process and lack of documentation for various contracts worth P5.04 billion, and donations in kind amounting to P1.41 billion that were not properly accounted for.
COA also said its audit found other deficiencies totaling P1.04 billion that were not included in the DOH’s consolidated management letter.
State auditors said that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, through the DOH Administration and Financial Management Team, agreed to implement most of their recommendations.
In its management letter, the DOH also said a “large percentage” of the P11.89 billion unobligated allotment came from Bayanihan 2 funds, “wherein material amount is allocated for the health-related responses such as provision of Special Risk Allowance and Active Hazard Duty Pay, among others.”
The COA report came amid a fresh uptick in COVID-19 infections, driven partially by the highly contagious Delta coronavirus variant, and calls by healthcare workers for the DOH to address the delayed release of their benefits.
Last month, the DOH became one of the subjects of corruption allegations made by Senator Manny Pacquiao.
The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission has said it was investigating 13 cases of possible corruption linked to the DOH and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Duque has repeatedly expressed the readiness of the DOH to participate in a probe.
In a statement on Wednesday, the DOH clarified that the P67.32 billion funds are accounted for and said it is currently addressing the compliance issues and deficiencies.
“Wala pong kinurakot, inilaan natin ang mga pondong ito para sa ating mga kababayan (Nothing was corrupted, these funds were intended for our countrymen),” Duque said.
The health chief added that the funds were used for the procurement of test kits, personal protective equipment, and the benefits and salaries of healthcare workers, among other things.
Duque said that out of the P79.7 billion COVID-19 funds received by the DOH, P68.9 billion had been used as of December 31, 2020.
“Moreover, with the enactment of Republic Act No. 11519 extending the availability of appropriations under Bayanihan 2, the Department was still able to utilize the unobligated balance for this year,” he added. —NB, GMA News