OCD maintains regularity of budget spending on disaster response, Covid-19

The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) insisted Wednesday, June 22, that it followed regular processes in utilizing its funds for disaster response and Covid-19 pandemic even as the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged them for their low budget utilization rate.

Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Administrator and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Executive Director (File photo / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Ang paggastos dyan ay dumadaan sa maayos na proseso ayon sa Republic Act 9184 o ‘yong ating Procurement Law (Our spending in those aspects followed regular process based on the Republic Act 9184 or the ),” OCD Administrator Ricardo Jalad said.

The OCD chief was reacting to reports that COA has flagged them for the low utilization rate of the agency’s humanitarian and disaster relief operations and Covid-19 response funds for 2021.

In the annual audit of the OCD, reports noted that the OCD received a Quick Response Fund (QRF) amounting to P1.854 billion, of which, a total of 97.89 percent was utilized.

However, state auditors reportedly called out the OCD after its regional offices had an unused balance of P174.756 million as they only spent 74.17 percent of the total budget that was downloaded to them.

The QRF is a built-in budgetary allocation that represents pre-disaster or standby funds for agencies in order to immediately assist areas stricken by catastrophes and crises.

“The utilization of the QRF of the OCD is mostly demand driven. But lately for Typhoon Odette for example, we recognize the limited of the air assets of the AFP so we used cargo planes. But we need to prioritize the use of government assets because we will spend less for that. We also cannot use the funds for financial assistance because there is a different source for that,” Jalad explained.

Meanwhile, reports also said that the regional offices of the OCD in Ilocos (Region 1), Mimaropa (Region 4B), and Central Visayas (Region 7) had low utilization rates of its Covid-19 funds where only P164.451 million out of P247.846 million transferred to them were actually spent. This translates to a utilization rate of 66.35 percent.

“There are agencies given with Covid funds and the fund given to us is mostly to support the isolation facilities. In our regional offices, they had low utilization rate because they used the funds mostly to support the quarantine facilities and accommodate the requests of LGUs . If there’s not much need for budget spending, then they cannot use the fund,” Jalad noted.

The OCD told COA in its audit report that among the reasons why they had low budget utilization rate was the slow downloading of funds from the Central Office to the regional offices.

“Isang dahilan din ‘yong sa delay eh, ‘yong availability of cash na nirerequest pa o parating pa lamang sa DBM (One of the reasons is the delay, the availability of cash which we have to request from the DBM),” Jalad said.

Nonetheless, Jalad said that almost all of the recommendations of the COA to OCD were heeded by the agency.

“Gusto kong linawin na ‘yong mga article na nababasa natin online ay hindi naman nagsasabi ng buong katotohanan na audit report sa amin ng COA for 2021. Walang banggit dyan na ang OCD pala ay binigyan ng unmodified opinion, ang pinakamataas na opinion na binibigay nila sa government agencies and therefore ibig sabihin noon ay maayos ang handling ng OCD ng kanilang pondo (I want to clarify the articles that you can read online because these do not include the entire truth about the audit report of COA on us for 2021. It did not mention that the OCD was given an unmodified opinion, the highest opinion that they give to government agencies and therefore, it means the OCD handled its budget well),” Jalad said.

He said the unused Covid-19 fund of the OCD for 2021 will be returned to the Bureau of Treasury following the lapse of the Bayanihan law, which created such specific budget.

Meanwhile, the OCD's unused QRF fund can still be used until the end of 2022 following the extension of the project for its use.