COA: Marinduque used disaster fund for health workers' phones
MANILA, Philippines – The Marinduque provincial government reportedly committed malversation of public funds when it used disaster funds to buy 1,300 mobile phones for its health workers.
This is among the findings of the Commission on Audit in its 2014 audit report on the province released on Monday, August 17.
“Verification of report on utilization of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (DRRMF) disclosed that Mitigation Fund was utilized for the purchase of cell phones totaling P909,675 for employees of the provincial health office and barangay health workers,” COA said in its report.
COA discovered that the phones were distributed to the recipients at a training seminar for hypertension and diabetes care.
State auditors said the transaction violates Section 217 of the Revised Penal Code, as it is an act of misappropriation or malversation of public funds.
“The procurement of cellphones …is not among the projects and activities to be funded under LDRRMF. The utilization of LDRRMF for purposes other than what it was appropriated for constitutes irregular and illegal expenditures,” the COA said.
It declared the transaction void as the purchase order was awarded without a valid appropriation.
During the exit conference, Governor Carmencita Reyes admitted she allowed the procurement of cellphones for health workers as in emergency situations, mobile phones are necessary for quicker response.
The COA said, however, that equipment for basic health service – a regular function of a local government unit – should be sourced from the province’s annual budget under the General Fund, and not from the disaster fund which has specific purposes.
3-year state of calamity?
In its audit report, COA noted that Marinduque has remained under a state of calamity since the provincial government declared it on October 30, 2012, due to flooding caused by Typhoon Ofel.
It said a declaration of a state of calamity is supposed to last for only a year unless there is extensive devastation requiring a longer period of rehabilitation. It said this is not the case in Marinduque.
“Based on reports of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, Typhoons Ofel, Glenda, and Ruby caused moderate to minor damages to the (province) as compared to nearby regions wherein the said typhoons left swathe of destruction,” the COA report said.
With the state of calamity still in effect, COA said the provincial government has continued paying financial assistance to victims of Typhoon Gorio, which struck the province in June 2013.
The provincial board blamed the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (LDRRMC) for failing to submit a request to lift the state of calamity. It said the provincial board cannot take action without a damage assessment and a report on disaster recovery and rehabilitation.
The COA ordered the LDRRMC to explain its failure to submit an evaluation report, and why the grant of financial assistance to supposed typhoon victims in 2013 has been allowed to continue. – Rappler.com