Congressional briefing seen to shed light on COVID fund use

August 15, 2021 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 183 views

THE House of Representatives is set to receive a briefing from the Commission on Audit (CoA) regarding the “deficiencies” it uncovered in the management of some P67.32 billion in coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) funds entrusted to the Department of Health (DOH) in 2020.

No less than Speaker Lord Allan Velasco requested the CoA briefing for House members to be hosted by the House committee on public accounts, chaired by Probinsyano Ako Rep. Jose “Bonito” Singson Jr., anytime this week.

Velasco expressed hope the congressional briefing could shed light on the controversy that puts into question the handling of COVID-19 funds by the health department.

“We want to get the facts straight from CoA and we are particularly concerned because the funds involved were among those allocated under the Bayanihan laws that Congress passed last year,” Velasco pointed out.

He said the briefing would allow House members to monitor the use of pandemic funds and develop corresponding legislation.

“The overall objective is to ensure that the billions of pesos Congress had dedicated to COVID-19 response—and any additional funds it provides in future legislation—are spent wisely and effectively,” Velasco said.

The House chief said DoH officials will also be invited to the congressional briefing. “The briefing would also serve as a venue for the DoH to explain and account for the pandemic funds mentioned in the CoA report,” he said.

Velasco said the House leadership would like to hear first the explanation of the DoH on the audit observations made by CoA before making any conclusion.

President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte himself has ordered the DoH to explain the deficiencies enumerated in the CoA report, Velasco noted.

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.

For its part, the DoH said the P67.32 billion flagged by CoA is accounted for. The agency also acknowledged the findings concerning the funds and that it is already addressing the compliance issues and deficiencies the CoA pointed out in its report.