Duque urged to quit over COVID funds ‘misuse’

August 12, 2021 Jester P. Manalastas 151 views


This was the call of a lawmaker to Health Sec. Francisco Duque following the findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) on the mishandling of funds intended for the COVID-19 response amounting to P67.32 billion.

In a statement, Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat expressed disappointment to Duque, to which amid the difficulties of the people during this pandemic he was not able to do his job well.

“Kailangan nang mag-resign ni Sec. Duque sa lantarang kapabayaan at korapsiyon. Imbis na pagtugon sa bakuna at pagsasaayos ng mga pasilidad sa ospital, ang pera ng taumbayan ay napunta sa korapsyon,” Cullamat said.

In its 2020 audit report, the COA said the Department of Health (DOH) did not comply with existing laws, rules and regulations in its handling of P67.323 billion government funding released last year to address the COVID-19 crisis.

“Various deficiencies involving P67,323,186,570.57 worth of public funds intended for national efforts of combating …the COVID-19 crisis were noted. These deficiencies contributed to the challenges encountered …during the time of state of calamity/national emergency,” the audit team noted.

Based on the breakdown provided in the 2020 audit report, the DOH transferred P42.412 billion to partner agencies for procurement activities or for the implementation of programs but these were not covered by a memorandum of agreement (MOA) or other supporting documents.

It was discovered that with the billions in funding released last year auditors said hospitals and health workers were still left pleading to private donors for badly needed supplies, exposing them and their patients at risk.

Auditors noted that DOH left P11.89 billion pandemic funding unobligated or not assigned to any program or project. This sum was provided under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Bayanihan 2).

Also flagged in audit were delays in the procurement of hospital equipment and supplies worth P3.42 billion; lack of transparency in posting the details of P5.113 billion worth of transactions in violation of guidelines set by the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB); improper documentation and inventory of donations to various hospitals worth P1.406 billion; questionable release of allowances worth P814.25 million; and deficient handling of P734.5 million funds under the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (Mechanism) by various hospitals.

“Most importantly, the billions of pesos in the coffers of the DOH that have remained not obligated and disbursed as at yearend is counter-beneficial to the Department’s continued efforts towards controlling the spread of COVID-19,” the COA report said.

“These funds that remained idle as at yearend were not translated to much needed supplies, equipment, and services that could have benefited both the health workers and the general public during critical times,” it added.