Poe wants Senate probe on DOH's use of COVID-19 funds

Senator Grace Poe on Thursday, August 12, asked the Senate to investigate the reported deficiencies of the Department of Health (DOH) in spending its allocations for COVID-19 response.

Senator Grace Poe (Senate PRIB)

Following the release of the Commission on Audit's (COA) report, Poe filed a Senate resolution that calls for an inquiry on how the DOH utilized some P67.32 billion in COVID-19 response funds.

"Inefficiencies in the midst of a health crisis make our people bear the brunt," Poe said in a statement.

The COA, in its 2020 report, saw "various deficiencies" involving the said amount, which supposedly "contributed to challenges encountered and missed opportunities" by the DOH amid the health crisis, and "casted doubts on the regularity of related transactions".

"These funds were provided to strengthen the agency's health resources in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the implementation deficiencies denied our countrymen their right to health at a time when it is most needed," Poe pointed in her resolution.

"These deficiencies prove to be counter-beneficial to the government's efforts to curb the spread of the disease at a crucial time. Instead of being utilized to support and boost the country's pandemic response, the funds remained idle or were not properly and immediately used where they should go," she added.

State auditors mainly attributed the deficiencies to the DOH's non-compliance with pertinent laws and regulations, including use of funds not for intended purpose, low or zero utilization, improper charging of transactions, doubtful liquidations, procurement without legal basis, and procedural flaws, among others.

"The DOH has a lot of explaining to do. We expect the Senate investigation will help correct these deficiencies, seek accountability and ensure future funds are better managed," Poe appealed.

Some senators have said that the COA's report proves the incompetence of the DOH, under the helm of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

A majority of the Senate's members have long been calling for Duque's resignation.