MANILA, Philippines — Billions of pesos worth of funds in the Department of Health’s COVID-19 response were riddled with deficiencies that contributed to challenges in the agency’s pandemic handling, state auditors have bared.
The Commission on Audit made the assessment on the P67.32 billion funding in its 2020 report made public on Wednesday.
Of that figure, it attributed deficiencies in P66.28 billion mainly to “non-compliance of pertinent laws and rules and regulations.”
Auditors gave DOH an adverse opinion, which noted its financial statements did not “present fairly, in all material respects,” the agency’s financial position.
“These contributed to the challenges encountered and missed opportunities by the DOH during the time of state of calamity/national emergency,” COA said, “and casted doubts on the regularity of related transactions.”
COA added that continuous audit showed additional deficiencies of some P1.036 million. The total stood at P67,323,186,570.57-worth of taxpayers’ money.
Health officials have yet to respond to government auditors’ findings in their yearly report.
The auditing body called the DOH’s funds that were not obligated or disbursed by end-2020 as “counter-beneficial” to its efforts to curb the spread of the disease at the time through providing quality health services.
“It can, thus, be said that these funds that remained idle as at year-end were not translated to much-needed health supplies,” COA continued, “equipment and services that could have benefited both health workers and the general public during the critical times of the pandemic.”
COA has since called the attention of Secretary Francisco Duque III to take action on its report.
Among the recommendations were: to remind heads of various operating units “to act with urgency and efficiency” in utilizing COVID-19 funds, as well as to address roadblocks hampering its efficient use, to name a few.
The DOH has faced a barrage of criticism in 2020 for its response to one of Southeast Asia’s worst virus outbreaks.
It went as far as a majority of senators calling for Duque’s resignation or replacement, only to be bucked by President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been vocal in his support for the health chief amid the controversies.
Reporting by Nadine Castro