DOH on ₧67-B Covid funds: None wasted


A HEAD of separate hearings in the House of Representatives and the Senate into the P67.3 billion “deficiencies” flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA), the Department of Health (DOH) on Monday has assured the public that “no funds were wasted.”

In an online media forum of the DOH on Monday, Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said the audit observations list raised by COA for the DOH ending December 31, 2020 “is not yet the final report.”    

“And we can still rectify the noted deficiencies so we can improve the efficiency and processes in our system,” said Vega, who is also the chief of staff of the DOH Administration and Financial Management Team.

Meanwhile, Vega said DOH has postponed the procurement of four sets of “high-end” laptops amounting to P700,000. On August 4, a document from agency’s Bids and Awards Committee indicated the request for the best and final offer for the four laptops with accessories for P700,000 or P125,000 for each unit—a price that has raised eyebrows among netizens.

“The transaction was put on hold pending further market study,” Vega said. On the issue of over P67-billion “deficiencies,” Vega said these have been “mostly resolved” by DOH and its operating units.

The COA 2020 Consolidated Annual Audit Report covers audit findings until December 31, 2020, as such, most of these findings have already been addressed or are currently being addressed.

The DOH Central Office (CO) has closely coordinated with all its operating units composed of 65 DOH hospitals, 16 Centers for Health Development, and 12 Treatment and Rehabilitation Centers, 2 bureaus (Food and Drug Administration and Bureau of Quarantine), and 1 laboratory facility, to provide information to the public on the status and actions taken regarding their respective COA findings.

Findings on fund utilization, recording of donations, grant of meal benefits, and compensation for HCWs are already resolved, DOH claimed.

On the reported unobligated allotment of P11.8 billion in 2020, Vega said most of these funds remained available for use in 2021—
P 5.1 billion of this amount is part of the Continuing Appropriation of Bayanihan Act II, of which 83 percent or P4.2 billion has been utilized as of June 30, 2021; as for the P4.7 billion under Foreign Assisted Projects (FAPs), this was requested for Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) in FY 2021 to pursue the unmet target of P 3.4 billion.

On the deficiencies noted regarding P1.4 billion in-kind donations for which hospitals missed the submission of summary reports or lists of donations, the DOH official said such has already been addressed, and that concerned offices and facilities have provided the COA with the required listings and reports.

COA findings on unauthorized grant of meal allowances have also been settled.

The DOH sought approval of the Office of the President (OP) to provide the meal benefits through other forms, apart from packed meals. They then approved the provision in cash equivalents through its Memorandum issued June 1, 2021.

The P 4.8-million unpaid financial assistance to health-care workers, Vegas said, was already duly paid by concerned Regional offices.

COA had noted that the claims for compensation benefits unpaid at the end of the year entailed valid reasons, such as lack of required documents.

However, the DOH said this was “immediately” paid by the Regional Offices upon completion of documentation.

Findings on fund transfers, procurement deficiencies, and unutilized medical equipment and supplies were partially resolved, DOH said.

PITC issue

The P42.4-billion fund transfers, the DOH official said, were mostly to the Procurement Service (PS) of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and Philippine International Trading Corp (PITC) for the procurement of Covid-19 supplies. COA observed that the funds were transferred without a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), and despite delays in delivery of the procured medical equipment.

The DOH responded that there is no need for a MOA for the transaction, since the items procured —PPEs, testing kits, and other equipment needed for the Covid-19 response—have been classified as common-use supplies due to the pandemic.

While COA flagged that the DOH needed to wait for the liquidation of all pending procurements before transferring funds to the procurement agencies, the DOH needed to ensure continuous provision of critical supplies, and had to make new purchases, while awaiting deliveries of previous purchases in order to ensure supplies and equipment for the Covid-19 response.

DOH also explained that delivery issues were coordinated with the procurement agencies to ensure that much-needed supplies are delivered immediately.

Of the P5.1-billion procedural and documentary deficiencies flagged, the P2.5 billion have been addressed by the Procurement Service of the DOH Central Office. Meanwhile, the remaining P2.5 billion is being addressed by operating units in compliance with COA recommendations.

COA also flagged P74 million worth of unutilized medical equipment and supplies, including those intended for Covid-19 but used in non-Covid wards, and delayed deliveries resulting in delayed utilization of procured items. To date, most of the determined “unutilized” medical equipment and supplies are being used based on the report of DOH hospitals.

The remaining items in the COA report, including cash advances and petty cash funds, incomplete supporting documents relative to the death and sickness compensation, grant of various Covid-19 allowances, and management of Interim Reimbursement Mechanism funds, are being addressed by concerned offices and operating units, DOH said.

“As these findings are not yet final, we were given a period of 60 days to respond and provide updates on compliance with the recommendations by COA. But we will submit even before the deadline,” said Secretary Francisco T. Duque III.

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