Hontiveros on COA’s findings on DOH: ‘We’ve always known someone dropped the ball’

Published August 12, 2021, 12:03 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday, August 12 said she is not surprised at the Commission on Audit’s (COA) findings of deficiencies in the Department of Health’s (DOH) handling of some P67.32-billion worth of COVID-19 funds, saying there has always been strong indications of neglect and fallacies in the government’s fight against the pandemic.

“We have always known that someone dropped the ball, and now, with the recent COA findings, we know exactly by how much,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

The senator pointed she has long been calling for a special audit of all the used and unutilized funds that Congress have allocated for the government’s COVID-19 pandemic response.

“Malaking halaga ang P67.32-billion at iyan ay sapat para sa benepisyo at tamang pasahod ng healthcare workers, agarang medical supplies, libreng serbisyong pangkalusugan, at dagdag na ayuda para sa pinakanangangailangan (That P67.32-billion fund is no joke and that is huge enough to provide benefits and correct salaries for our healthcare workers, for immediate purchase of medical supplies, free health services and additional cash aid for the needs of those affected by the pandemic),” she said.

“Given the COA findings, the DOH seems to be depriving thousands of Filipinos of healthcare services in the face of national emergency and it is nothing short of criminal,” added the lawmaker.

Based on the COA report for its 2020 Annual Audit, state auditors noted that at least P11.89-billion funds were not obligated.

According to the COA, the DOH also failed to properly disclose and document donations-in-kind which amount to P1.405-billion.

The state auditing agency also noted violations of the Government Procurement Act involving the purchase of medical equipment and supplies.

Hontiveros said she expects the DOH to comply with the COA’s audit observation and accounting.

“Sa gitna ng krisis (in the middle of this crisis), we need commitment and competence from the DOH leadership to ensure every peso budgeted and allocated would saves lives,” she said.

Last December 2020, senators criticized Health Secretary Francisco Duque III for “dropping the ball” after the government’s earliest negotiations with American drug maker Pfizer for COVID-19 vaccines did not push through.

Later on, the DOH chief denied the insinuations as he pointed out that negotiations with Pfizer were still ongoing.