The Commission on Audit clarified on Friday it did not find “deficiencies” linked to corruption in its report on the P67.3 billion COVID-19 response funds of the Department of Health.
“The report itself does not mention any findings by the auditors of funds lost to corruption,” COA said in a statement.
“As an example, some of the findings of deficiencies involving COVID-19 funds amounting to P67.3 billion resulted from the non-submission of documentation or supporting papers, which the DOH may still submit in compliance with the auditor’s recommendation. Of the P67.3 billion, P42.4 billion consisted of fund transfers to procurement/implementing partner-agencies without the required documentation. There is no finding that this amount cannot be accounted for,” COA explained.
COA said it was “premature” to make conclusions on the findings as the audit process “has not been completed.” DOH, it said, still has a chance to comply on the required documentation.
But senators are already gearing for a probe into the “deficiencies” cited in the COA report, and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III is expected to be grilled on the same issue during the budget deliberations.
“DOH’s management of pandemic response funds will definitely be taken up during the deliberations of the DOH’s 2022 budget once the Senate starts the hearings before approving their budget,” said Senator Panfilo Lacson.
Duque said Friday the questioned transfer of funds to partner agencies have memorandum of agreements and other supporting documents.
He said DOH should only have to organize and complete these documents.
“All memorandum of agreements, donations, supply contract, delivery receipts, schedule of payments, lahat yan, meron lahat yan,“ he said.
But Lacson said the latest report of COA on the health department’s funds was among the many other issues hounding the agency.
“Sadly, the issues brought to light by the COA report, among others, shows that he (Duque) doesn’t care about the health concerns of the people who he is supposed to serve,” Lacson said.
“He only cares about his boss, the President who, for reasons only they probably know, cannot and will not remove him from office in spite of repeated calls from the majority of senators and other sectors,” he added.
Despite mounting calls for Duque to quit his post, the President even called him a “hero,” citing the government’s “good” response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At least 14 senators earlier co-authored a resolution pressing for Duque to resign, citing his “failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight, and inefficiency in performance” which led to “poor planning, delayed response, lack of transparency, and misguided and flip-flopping policies and measures” in addressing the pandemic.
In the House, Deputy Speaker Bernadette Herrera Herrera said it was the obligation of the DOH to account for the COVID-19 funds and make sure the money had been used for its intended purpose.
“It’s after all taxpayers’ money. The DOH owes the public a full and satisfactory explanation as to how COVID-19 funds were spent,” the Bagong Henerasyon lawmaker said.
Lacson also remembered that during Duque’s confirmation hearings, he asked him about DOH’s supply chain issues and what he intended to do to resolve those issues.
“He could not answer my questions satisfactorily, if at all,” said Lacson.
“Am I surprised that he did not even bother to research in spite of his obvious lack of knowledge on the importance of the supply chain in his department? What gives? It’s hubris,” said Lacson.