The Commission on Audit has chided the provincial government of Dinagat Island for ‘stockpiling’ cadaver bags in response to the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) situation, saying that the procured items exceeded the three-month estimated number of deaths in the province.
COA made the observation as it released to Governor Arlene Bag-ao its 2020 annual audit report for the province.
State auditors noted that the purchase using the Bayanihan Grant to Provinces fund from the national government is “deemed excessive procurement” as defined under COA Circular No. 2012-003 dated October 29, 2012.
“Hence, economical use of government funds was not achieved contrary to Section 2 of PD 1445,” COA said.
Auditors stressed that prior to the purchase of body bags on August 19, 2020, the Provincial Health Office already procured 150 pieces of cadaver bags on June 25, 2020. The cadaver bags supplied for the first purchase, it was discovered, have yet to be used when the second procurement was made.
Thus, the audit examiners described the August procurement as ”impractical and lack reasonable timing.”:
“Further, records disclosed that the province had no recorded casualty of probable or confirmed patients of COVID 19 since the first procurement was made,” COA auditors said.
They added: “Hence the additional purchase is considered excessive procurement.”
State auditors also cited Republic Act 7160 as a guide in making purchases. The Local Government Code provides that the maximum quantity of good to be procurement by local government units should not exceed the estimated three -months consumption.
“Common sense dictates that the number of cadaver bags in inventory as of December 31, 2020 will not be consumed for a period of three months,” COA stated.
“We recommended that Management enhance effective planning and proper coordination in the procurement of goods and avoid overstocking of cadaver bags to ensure that public funds are properly managed and utilized in view of efficiency, economy and effectiveness in the operations,” the audit agency stated.
In response, Dinagat officials cited Memorandum Circular 2016-139 issued by the Department of Interior and Local Government apparently issued prior to the pandemic. Provincial officials reasoned out that the said DILG directive recommended that each LGU must stockpile at least 50 cadaver bags for emergencies and disasters.
Local officials said that the seven municipalities comprising the province, a minimum of 350 cadaver bags “will be required to comply” with the DILG recommendation.
They explained that the 401 cadaver bags they procured were distributed to the province’s three district hospitals, seven municipalities and to the Provincial Emergency Operations Cente.
“Out of the 182 cadaver bags distributed, 41 were utilized and the 141remain unutilized,” officials added.
In its rejoinder, COA said the DILG circular merely provides guidance for local government officials.
“However, in the case of the Provincial Government, it exceeded the usual or past experience of deaths or even the present situation where deaths were caused from emergencies and disasters,” the state audit agency pointed out.
COA said the provincial need not provide its seven municipalities with cadaver bags because they also have their own COVID-19 funds “to manage and attend to their needs.”