The Department of the Interior and Local (DILG) on Tuesday said unused funds for the hiring of contact tracers and other pandemic programs of the government have been returned to the national treasury.
“Aside from the contact tracers being given by the DILG out of our appropriations, local government units (LGUs) also have their own contact tracers and augmenting the DILG contact tracers, hence savings and other unexpended balances,’’ DILG Assistant Secretary for Finance and Comptrollership Ester Aldana told reporters.
Aldana said the DILG has excess COVID-19 funds after some LGUs hired their own contact tracers and provided transportation services for the personnel assigned at the height of the pandemic.
Aldana noted that out of the unobligated amount of P577 million, funds amounting to P140 million for the hiring of contact tracers remained valid for obligation until the end of this year.
“So we really have to return that money to the BTr (Bureau of the Treasury). These unexpended balances for this COVID, or for contact tracers are due to the allocated funds for health protocols like face masks, alcohol, PPE (personal protective equipment) items, and the cost price for that is lesser compared to 2020,” she added.
The Commission on Audit earlier flagged the DILG’s failure to fully use its P4.038 billion COVID-19 funds for 2021.
DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos vowed an investigation into the unused funds even if it happened during the watch of his predecessor.
“The fund was not utilized since DILG-CO did not hire additional administrative staff. Instead, the Department utilized the current personnel complement to assist in its day to day operations,” the COA report read.
While funds were not spent, they were reverted to the unappropriated surplus of the General Fund, COA said.
“We recommended that management maximize utilization of allotments through proper planning and timely implementation of planned activities during the period,” it added.
The COA also said the fund transfers to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao for the employment of contact tracers amounting to P67.893 million remained unliquidated by the end of 2021.
COA further cited the DILG under then Secretary Eduardo Año failed to either fully or partially implement anti-COVID-19 projects and activities, thereby failing to fully spend P4.038 billion of its allotment.
Although the DILG was able to recruit its targeted number of contact tracers, the funds for such purpose under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act and the General Appropriations Act of 2021 were not fully utilized, it said.
“The fund was not utilized since the DILG did not hire additional administrative staff. Instead, the Department utilized the current personnel complement to assist in its day to day operations,” COA noted.
The agency vowed to return the unused funds intended for the hiring of contract tracers and the procurement of health-related products, such as alcohol and face masks.
The department said the unobligated amount of P577 million came from the 2021 appropriation funds that is still valid for obligation until Dec. 31, 2022.
It further stated that P436 million of the P577 million was from the continuing appropriations which was already reverted to the Bureau of Treasury, and the fund was not fully spent since local government units hired their own contract tracers and used their funds.