DOH scrimped then wasted billions of pesos in public funds -COA

Published August 12, 2021, 2:53 PM

by Ben Rosario

More adverse audit observations were revealed by the Commission on Audit in the handling of the Department of Health of billions of pesos in government funds and in the implementation of its projects even as audit disallowances and suspensions of various transactions have reached over P8.8 billion as of end of 2020.

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“Governmental transactions in the total amount of P45,849,113,881.05 were not supported with complete documentary requirements contrary to law and regulations and casted doubts on the validity, regularity and propriety of transactions,” COA said in the 100-page observations and recommendations contained in the 2020 Annual Audit Report for DOH.

Instead of spending all of its huge allocated funds to address the volatile public health situation during that year’s COVID-10 pandemic crisis, DOH unwittingly scrimped on government funds and missed the opportunity to ease the crisis.

State auditors noted that least P24.64 billion was not spent as of the end of 2020.

“This condition affects the efficient utilization of public funds vis-a-vis the agency’s implementation capabilities and its response to the urgent healthcare needs during the time of state of calamity/national emergency,” COA said.

“The billions of pesos in the coffers of the DOH that have remained not obligated and disbursed as at year end and funds that were reverted back to the national treasury are counter-beneficial to the Department’s continuing efforts towards ensuring access to basic public health services to all Filipinos,” the audit agency lamented.

Previously reported were audit deficiencies in the DOH’s management of some P67.32 billion in COVID-19 funds, thus, earning for the department headed by Secretary Francisco Duque tongue-lashing from various concerned officials, particularly lawmakers.

“The non compliance with laws, rules and regulations resulted in audit disallowances and suspensions of various transactions in the aggregate amount of P8,801,.030,021.45 as at December 31, 2020,” the 2020 AAR revealed.

While some of the disallowances are now the object of appeal, COA said persons liable for notice of disallowances deemed final and executory should “settle, in full, the amount due them.” The audit team found that DOH has again failed to address the perennial problem of distributing hundreds of million of medicines and other pharmaceuticals before expiration.

“This recurring problem of the DOH has resulted in indiscriminate wastage of government funds and resources and impedes the attainment of DOH’s mission of leading the country in the development of a productive, resilient, equitble and people-centered heath system,” COA auditors observed.

In 2020, some P96.15 million worth of drugs medicines and other types of inventories were found to be nearly expiring or have expired due to “deficient procurement planning, poor distribution and monitoring systems.” “Drugs, medicines and other types of inventories with a total value of P95,151,889.46 were found to be nearly expired and/or have expired ddue to deficient procurement planning, poor distribution and monitoring systems, and identified weakness in internal controls,” said COA.

Audit examiners recommended the conduct a “thorough investigation” and the imposition of appropriate sanctions on all erring officials and employees “whose neglect caused wastage of government funds.”

Making matters worse is the claim of auditors that the DOH central office and several operating units were unable to “properly handle and monitor their receivables” thus resulting in the “non-collection and/or non liquidation” of receivables” of at least P3.49 billion from three to ten years and P1.61 for more than ten years.

COA also observed procedural deficiencies in the procurement process and lack of documentation in negotiated contracts in various project had involved P3.96 billion in funds.

Auditors said the procurement transactions violated important proviisons of RA 9184 and ‘deprived the government of the most advantageous prices and resulted in doubtful payment transactions and significant delays in project completion.”

DOH was asked to submit an explanation or justification on various deficiencies noted by auditors.