A double whammy of adverse audit observations received by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has elicited for the agency strong criticisms coming from a youth partylist organization in the House of Representatives.
The Kabataan Partylist, represented in the Lower House by Rep. Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sara Elago, chided DILG Secretary Eduardo Año for the failure of his department of disburse P447.62 million in COVID-19 emergency response funds allocated for the hiring and training of contact tracers and the purchase of medical supplies.
The partylist organization reacted to the 2020 “Annual Audit Report (AAR) on the DILG that was recently released by the Commission on Audit (COA)..
In the 2020 AAR, the COA asked Año to “submit an explanation stating the reasons” for the inability of the DILG to utilize in full the COVID-19 allotments and see to it that the remaining unobligated allotments are utilized “ by June 30, 2021 for the intended purposes.
In the same report, audit examiners also flagged the DILG Region XII for its “inadequate planning and non-monitoring of utilization of funds from the controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.
As a result of these deficiencies, violations of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Act were committed namely the “misaligned procurements to Annual Procurement Plan, splitting of government contracts to P187,200.00 to avoid posting of procurements in the PhilGeps and unliquidated fund transfers to field offices totaling P2,922,000”.
According to COA several financial transactions for a total P1,057,079 under the NTF-ELCAC program were not supported with required documents.
The DILG received in 2020 a total P3,618,600,355 under the Bayanihan to Heal and One Act or Bayanihan I and the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan II to support anti-pandemic programs such as the procurement of equipment, drugs and medicines and the hiring and training of contact tracers, among others.
Out of the total amount it received, 12.37 percent or P447,629,260.33 was unobligated.
Aside from the unobligated allocation of the DILG, COA noted that the P6.97 million allocation for training expenses was utilized for Emergency Operations Center which “are not related to training.” Some P6.76 million in disbursements thru cash advances also “contravened existing government rules and regulations, COA said.
Auditors also noted that the hiring of contract tracers was not supported by complete documentation.
COA blamed the DILG Central Office for failing to utilize P263.6 million out of the unobligated P447 million to hire and train contract tracers.
The significance of hiring contact tracers has been underscored as one of the more effective measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemics.
Just the other day, tracing czar and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong lamented the lack of funding to renew the contracts of contact tracers and hire more of them amid another upsurge of COVID 19 cases in the country.