OMB to wait for full COA reports on DOH’s audit prior to probe ‘if needed’

Published August 12, 2021, 3:55 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

Office of the Ombudsman

The Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) will await the completion of the Commission on Audit’s (COA) findings on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) fund utilization of the Department of Health (DOH) before conducting its probe if needed.

Ombudsman Samuel R. Martires on Thusday, Aug. 12, said the DOH’s 2020 budget utilization as contained in its Annual Audit Report (AAR) should reach completion first.

“It must be noted that the AAR contains several Audit Observation Memorandum reports, and at this stage of the proceedings, the Office of the Ombudsman will await the completion of the auditing process as the agency is given the opportunity to ensure full implementation of all audit recommendations to improve the financial and operational efficiency of the DOH,” Martires said.

“Following this, should there be non-compliance or disagreement in the implementation of the recommendations and observations of the auditors, the matter may still be elevated to the COA en banc which has the final say on the matter,” he said.

“To await the finalization and completion of the auditing process avoids a repeat of having to withdraw cases already filed in court based on preliminary audit findings…,” he added.

Martires’ statement was similar to that issued by Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra, head of the inter-agency Task Force Against Corruption (TFAC).

Guevarra said the TFAC “will step in” if the DOH will fail to “justifiably comply with or render an acceptable explanation” on the reported deficiencies found by COA in the health agency’s handling of P67 billion in COVID-19 funds in 2020.

“Any government agency subject of audit observations is given the opportunity to explain or rectify any deficiencies noted by COA. The same is true with the DOH with respect to the handling of COVID funds,” Guevarra said.

He said that DOH “will be given a reasonable chance to comply with or abide by the recommendations of the COA.”

“In case of unjustified failure to comply with or render an acceptable explanation, however, responsible officials of the agency (DOH) may be held liable not only for infractions of accounting and auditing rules and regulations but also for more serious violations of law, such as for breach of anti-graft and government procurement laws, in which case the TFAC will step in,” he stressed.

Published reports stated that among those flagged by the COA 2020 report include P5.038 billion worth of purchases that lacked documentation and had procedural deficiencies in violation of the Government Procurement Reform Act, and the P1.405 billion worth of donations in-kind that were not properly documented.