LGUs’ pandemic response hits P119 B

Local government units (LGUs) COVID-19 response amounted to P118.9 billion as of end June last year, the Department of Finance (DOF) reported on Sunday, Feb. 19.

According to the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF), an attached agency of the DOF, of the combined spending of LGUs on COVID-19 response measures, about P76.44 billion came from their own funds.

The remaining P35.44 billion came from the Bayanihan Grant under the 2020 national budget and in view of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Bayanihan 1), whose effectivity was extended up to last year.

The BLGF added that LGUs also utilized P4.93 billion of their unexpended cash balances of public funds held in trust that were transferred to the General Fund (GF) of LGUs to support their pandemic response efforts.

Another P2.14 billion spent by LGUs came from grants and donations, the BLGF said.

Under Republic Act (RA) No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2), the unexpended cash balances of public funds held in trust by the local governments were allowed to be transferred to the GF of the LGUs.

The BLGF’s report was in line with Dominguez’s earlier directive to the bureau to monitor the pandemic-related finances of LGUs.

The BLGF, in turn, developed an online reporting system for local treasurers to track the receipts and expenditures of all provinces, cities, and municipalities related to their COVID-19 programs, projects, and activities.

“This reporting system was used to establish and assess baseline local finance data to serve as inputs in managing the COVID-19 response of the Government,” BLGF Executive Director Niño Raymond Alvina said in his report to the DOF.

The data gathered by the BLGF covered the period from April 2020 to June 2021, with 100 percent reporting compliance of all provincial, city, and municipal treasurers of 1,715 LGUs.

Based on the BLGF’s preliminary analysis of the reports submitted by local treasurers, LGUs have utilized P35.44 billion or 96 percent of the total of P37.02 billion under the Bayanihan Grant to fund their respective pandemic response measures as of June 30, 2021.

Of the P35.44 billion, 87 percent or P30.83 billion was spent by LGUs for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE), mainly on food assistance and other relief goods for households, while the remaining 13 percent or P4.61 billion was used for capital outlays.

In terms of MOOE spent for COVID-19 response sourced from LGUs’ own funds, the National Capital Region (NCR), Region IV-A and Region III had the highest disbursements at P16.1 billion, P6.33 billion, and P5.18 billion, respectively.

The LGUs also reported about their respective sector-specific financial assistance programs for students, drivers, and senior citizens, among others, which amounted to P17.41 billion, with P13.59 billion coming from the cities.

LGUs have also transferred from their Trust Funds (TFs) to their GF the total amount of P5.44 billion to help finance their COVID-19 response. Of this amount, P4.93 billion or 91 percent was already utilized by the LGUs as of end-June last year.