State auditors demand transparency in Surigao del Norte's handling of COVID-19 funds, donations

Published June 11, 2021, 1:19 PM

by Ben Rosario

State auditors demanded transparency in the handling of funds, grants and donations received by the Surigao del Norte provincial government to support programs addressing the effects of the anti- coronavirus-disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the province.

The Commission on Audit revealed in its 2020 annual audit report for the province that “transparency and accountability of the information were limited” in connection with the COVID 19 programs implemented during the year.

COA also disclosed that “receipt, distribution and issuance of in-kind donations” by the provincial government during the outbreak “were not properly accounted for and safely kept in storage facilities” as mandated by COA Circular No. 2020-009.

“Thus, proper control, regulations and accountability of the in-kind donations received cannot be ascertained,” the audit agency said.

A copy of the report released recently was sent to Surigao del Norte Gov. Francisco Matugas by COA Regional Director Felix Basallaje Jr.

Audit examiners complained that mandatory monthly reports and posting of said reports in the website in connection to the fund utilization of the Bayanihan Grant to the province of Surigao del Norte were not complied with.

Surigao del Norte received P47,617,664 as Bayanihan Grant to finance programs lined up to address the COVID-19 outbreak in the province in 2020.

However, reports on fund utilization and status of implementation of projects were made only for the months of May to August 2020 and “posting of the same to the LGU’s website was not made at all.” “With the non-preparation of the report monthly and non-posting of the same, transparency and accountability of the information on the transactions under the Bayanihan Grant were limited,” COA stated in the audit report.

In response, the provincial government blamed “some system glitches” for the lapse, saying that it had already complied with the COA recommendations on the issue.

Provincial officials also assured auditors that it will address the audit observations with regards to the receipt of donations in-kind.

In the same audit report. COA chided provincial officials for failing to submit within five working days supporting documents and copies of 24 infrastructure contracts and purchase orders amounting to P255.152 million.

The state audit agency said this failure “precluded the timely review” of the contracts as to the reasonable of the contract cost. Non-compliance to the provisions of Republic Act 9184 or Government Procurement Act also prevented audit examiners from discovering defects and deficiencies in the contract provisions.

The provincial government said the engineer’s office has started to do its role in furnishing COA of copies of the documents needed.