House scrutiny into DOH’s ‘missing’ funds starts Tuesday


The Commission on Audit (COA) and the Department of Health (DOH) will brief on Tuesday members of the House of Representatives on reported “deficiencies” in the management of some P67.32 billion in Covid-19 funds. The DOH is likewise expected to answer its reported failure to pay the benefits of health-care frontline workers.

The House Committee on Public Accounts has invited COA and DOH top officials to brief lawmakers on its recently released 2020 annual audit reports (AAR) involving Covid-19 funds disbursed through the DOH.

Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro asked Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other government officials to attend the lower chamber’s briefing on the spending of the DOH’s P67-billion Covid-19 pandemic response funds.

“That will be Secretary Duque’s opportunity to explain the alleged deficiencies in the management of the funds as reported by the Commission on Audit. Anyway, he has vowed to account for all of the money and has declared that none of it has been lost to corruption,” Rodriguez said.

In its report, the COA flagged various deficiencies in the DOH’s management of pandemic funds worth P67.32 billion, of which, around P66.28 billion was attributed to non-compliance with pertinent laws and regulations.

However, the audit body later clarified that the report itself did not mention any findings of funds lost to corruption and that the DOH still has time to comply and rectify any shortcoming.

According to Rodriguez, the lower chamber also wants Duque to particularly address repeated complaints on the payment of benefits Congress had granted nurses and other health workers under the Bayanihan 1 and 2 laws.

He noted that the Department of Budget and Management has recently announced that it has released P9 billion for the special risk allowance and hazard pay of government and private health-care personnel.

“Where is the money now? Have the funds reached hospitals? Why are our nurses complaining that they have not received their special risk allowance and hazard pay?” he asked.

Earlier, Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo filed House Resolution 2121 to inquire on DOH’s non-payment of Bayanihan 2 benefits and allowances to private health-care workers. P13.5 billion was appropriated for these allowances and benefits under Bayanihan 2.

Last August 12, 2021, private health-care workers’ (HCWs) unions in the National Capital Region organized a dialogue with concerned agencies and lawmakers to express their concerns about not receiving the benefits promised under Bayanihan 2.

Bayanihan 2 mandated the provision of Covid-19 special risk allowance, life insurance, accommodation, free meals, and transportation to public and private health workers. It also assumed medical expenses of health workers who have been exposed to Covid-19 or any work-related disease or injury, and the provision of compensation for health workers who have contracted Covid-19.

Include PITC in House probe

Meanwhile, House Committee on Public Accounts Chairman Jose Singson Jr. asked the COA to also conduct a close scrutiny on the activities of state-run Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC), which “had been accused of hoarding over P11 billion in government money since 2017.”

Singson, in a news statement, said PITC has failed to deliver the procurement requests made by the DOH-Research Institute for Tropical Medicine that has advanced nearly P1 billion.

Singson said the 2020 AAR released by COA showed that PITC failed to construct in 2017 the proposed hospital for emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases although it has received from the DOH-Research Institute for Tropical Medicine a total P126 million for the project.

He said the P126 million is part of the P11 billion that DOH and other government agencies transferred to the PITC for various procurement activities.

“The COA reports gave us a glaring yet sickening visual of how the PITC squandered an opportunity for our country to have a better fighting chance against the Covid-19 pandemic which started in 2020, or three years after the trading firm got the money to implement the projects,” said Singson.

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