The Department of Health (DOH) said that the supposed “unauthorized” grant of P275.9-million worth of meal allowances to healthcare workers, which was flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA), has “already been settled.”
“The alleged ‘deficiencies’ in the management of P275.9 million in cash allowances, gift certificates, and grocery items, cited in the Commission on Audit 2020 Consolidated Annual Audit Report, have already been settled with the issuance of the Presidential Memorandum dated June 1, 2021,” the DOH said in a statement on Sunday, August 15.
“The DOH assures the public that it shall continue to defend the lawful provision of healthcare worker benefits, as these are granted in recognition of the invaluable sacrifice and service of our frontliners,” it added.
The DOH said that under Republic Act No. 11494 or Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, healthcare workers are entitled to meals, accommodation, and transportation benefits.
In order to provide these benefits, the DOH said it “downloaded P2.4 billion to Centers for Health Development, DOH hospitals, and specialty hospitals.”
“To immediately distribute these benefits, given the challenges of providing actual meals to healthcare workers who do not not follow regular break schedules, some hospitals and facilities opted to provide the benefits through cash, grocery vouchers, grocery items, and the like,” the DOH said.
“However, state auditors disagreed and recommended the return of the allowances already paid,” it added.
The DOH said it took the cause of healthcare workers and requested the Office of the President for presidential imprimatur to allow the provision of the said benefits in cash equivalents.
“The Office of the President responded to the request of our healthcare workers and recognized the need to provide meal, transportation, and accommodation benefits for public and private health workers in cash equivalents like gift cheques, grocery vouchers, grocery items, and the like in its June 1, 2021 Memorandum,” the DOH said.