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COA flags DSWD for P780.71-million unused cash aid amid lockdowns

State auditors have flagged the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) over P780.71 million in unutilized cash aid for Filipinos hit by lockdowns imposed to curb COVID-19 transmission.

In its annual report for 2020, the Commission on Audit (COA) said DSWD Field Offices in the Cordillera region and Regions 2, 7, 8, and 11 had unutilized cash aid “due to the inclusion of unqualified beneficiaries in the master list, and consequentially, depriving at least 139,300 families who are qualified for the program.”

COA said the unutilized amount deprived 14,200 families in the Cordillera region, 4,762 families in Region 2, 28,978 families in Region 7, 45,609 families in Region 8, and 45,751 families in Region 11 of cash aid.

“Given the scarcity of government resources for COVID-19 expenses, there is a dire need to properly evaluate targeted beneficiaries through proper coordination and monitoring, and proper and efficient validation that could maximize the number of qualified beneficiaries who could benefit from the SAP,” state auditors said.

In response, DSWD Field Office 2 said the unutilized amount was due to listed beneficiaries who were found to be ineligible upon validation or disqualified during the pay-out period.

DSWD Field Office 8 said “the reason for the big refunds was due to the bloated numbers of the classified poor families,” noting that the basis of the DSWD Central Office was the 2015 classified lists report of the Philippine Statistics Authority.

DSWD Field Office 7 said the amount returned by local governments amounting to P173.87 million “represents the excess of funds versus the actual number of eligible beneficiaries after the conduct of the validation.”

It added that the amount transferred to local governments was based on the regional allocations provided by the DSWD Central Office.

In its rejoinder, COA said the verification of disbursement and liquidation reports from DSWD Field Office 7 showed that refunds “were from individuals who earlier received the assistance and later have returned/refunded the same to the LGUs.”

“Thus, the Audit Team disagrees with Management’s comment that the returned/refunded amount of P173,870,460.00 represents excess of funds versus the number of eligible beneficiaries after the conduct of the validation,” COA said.

The Audit Team also stood by its audit observation that the insufficient validation of beneficiaries resulted in a “substantial” amount of unutilized funds in DSWD Field Office 7.

Unliquidated cash aid

In the same audit report, the COA flagged P4.36 billion in unliquidated fund transfers to local governments for cash aid.

State auditors said the unliquidated fund transfers were from the DSWD Field Offices in Metro Manila and Regions 4A, 4B, 5, 6, and 8.

COA said the non-liquidations were mainly due to a lack of monitoring on the compliance to the memorandum of agreement.

“The non-liquidations of the fund transferred to the LGUs… possibly defeated the purpose of the fund for which it was intended and also deprived the beneficiaries of the benefits they could have gained from financial assistance,” it said. —NB, GMA News