Duque: P67.3 billion Covid funds ‘accounted for’


Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III denied that there was corruption involved in the P67.3 billion Covid funds flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA).

“The P 67.3 billion is accounted for. Wala pong kinurakot, inilaan natin ang mga pondong ito para sa ating mga kababayan [There was no corruption here, we allotted the funds for our countrymen]. The flagged issues are being addressed by the DOH. Rest assured, that the funds allotted to the DOH are all spent for the procurement of test kits, PPEs [personal protective equipment], payment of health-care workers’ benefits, salaries of HRH [Human Resource for Health] among others,” Duque said in a statement to media late Wednesday afternoon.

Moreover, he said, with the enactment of RA No. 11519 extending the availability of appropriations under Bayanihan II, the Department was still able to utilize the unobligated balance for this year.

He stressed though that the DOH acknowledges the findings concerning these funds, and is currently addressing the said compliance issues and deficiencies.

The DOH said it has always been transparent and cooperative to yearly auditing efforts within the government. Moreover, the DOH has always complied with the recommendations of the COA.

“Bukas po ang aming tanggapan at handa po kaming ipakita sa ating mga kababayan na tama ang paggastos ng kanilang mga taxes [Our office is open and ready to show to the people where their taxes were spent]. We take our COA findings very seriously and have been working to further improve our processes and controls so that we can serve the public most effectively especially during this pandemic, ” said Duque.

In response to COA findings, the DOH said that the P67,323,186,570.57 public funds to combat Covid -19 “are compliance issues, procedural and documentary deficiencies” which are currently being addressed by the agency.”

After the COA noted “various deficiencies” on the Covid response funds, Duque when asked of his reaction earlier, told BusinessMirror that he will provide the “detailed” report as soon as the internal audit of the DOH will give him the copy.

However, in an initial report Duque provided it stated: “In year 2020, the DOH have exerted efforts in order to effectively implement provisions of both Bayanihan I and II more particularly those health responses in this time of state of calamity /national emergency amidst varying challenges.”

“Of the P79,793,138,551.00 COVID funds mentioned in the COA report which was then received by the agency, P68,994,087,449.27 was utilized as of 31 December 2020 for the procurement of test kits, PPE, payment of health workers’ benefits, salaries of HRH,”among others,” the report from the Financial and Management Service stated.

It added that due to the “enactment of Bayanihan II- Continuing Appropriations, the Department was still able to utilize in year 2021 the unobligated balance of allotment as of year-end 2020.”

In conclusion, the DOH emphasized that the agency “stands firm in its commitment to observe utmost transparency and accountability in the utilization of government funds more specifically for those allotted for Covid-19 response.”

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