The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said on Tuesday, July 5, that the unused Covid-19 funds that were flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA) were already turned over to the national treasury.
“Aside from the contact tracers being given by the DILG out of our appropriations, LGUs (local government units) also have their own contact tracers and augmenting the DILG contact tracers, hence savings and other unexpended balances,’’ DILG Assistant Secretary Ester Aldana explained.
She said there was an excess for Covid-19 related expenditures after the local government units (LGUs) hired their own contact tracers and provided transportation services for the personnel assigned at the height of the pandemic.
Of the unobligated amount, Aldana said P140 million intended for the hiring of contact tracers remains valid for obligation until the end of the year.
For his part, DILG Secretary Benjamin ‘Benhur’ Abalos Jr. said the unobligated amount of P577 million was from the 2021 appropriations fund which is still valid for obligation until Dec. 31, 2022.
The DILG noted that P436 million of the amount will be earmarked for the continuing appropriations which was already reverted to the Bureau of Treasury pursuant to Bayanihan 2.
Earlier, the Commission on Audit (COA) called the attention of the DILG for failing to make use of its P4.038 billion Covid-19 budget for 2021 with the unused funds amounting to P577 million.
Abalos assured to have the unused funds checked and investigated further even if the question at hand happened before his tenure as DILG chief.
The DILG chief also vowed to ‘learn from the lessons of the past’ in relation to the contact tracing process after the COA flagged the department for its unutilized Covid response funds with the promise of improving the national government’s StaySafe application.
“I saw the importance of contact tracers, and I would like to point out that we have an application about this,” Abalos said.
But former Health secretary Francisco Duque III downplayed the significance of the program in a Senate hearing last year even if the contact tracing application was made mandatory by the national government.
Last year, the DILG hired 15,000 out of the total 130,178 contact tracers hired in the country. (Chito A. Chavez)