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DOH's P1.6B projects are delayed, broken or unused – COA

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health or DOH's Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) accounts for P1.6-billion worth of irregularities, according to the Commission on Audit (COA).

If the infrastructure projects are not delayed, they are either defective or fully-functioning but unused.

In its 2016 audit report of the DOH released on July 10, COA said the deficiencies in the program "defeated its (DOH's) primary purpose" of providing healthcare services to intended beneficiaries.

The DOH started to allocate HFEP its own budget in 2008 and reached a milestone in 2011 when  the funds more than doubled from P3.2 billion to P7.1 billion. As the name indicates, it was meant to build more facilities, buy more equipment for government hospitals and health centers.

Problems

According to COA, the DOH had P83 billion to spend for the upgrades from 2010 to 2016. Because the upgrades span years, COA focuses on one aspect of the program to audit each year.

For 2016, COA zeroed in on the financial compliance and what is called "Value For Money" audit or VFM.

First, COA found that P58.1 million worth of various equipment for DOH's offices and state hospitals were "either idle or unutilized due to various defects and non-availability of facilities for installation."

Some of the problems included having no space suited for permanent installation. Electricity requirements and occupancy permits were also inadequate.

Of the P58.1 million, DOH spent P2.9 million on equipment which are working as machines, but are without personnel to operate them.

"Personnel assigned to operate on these equipment are only equipped with basic and minor knowledge on how to operate the same, such that whenever a slight malfunction occurs, management needs to refer them to an expert technician," COA said.

DOH also spent P43.4 million worth of mobile dental vehicles deployed to NCR, Regions II, IX, XIII, and CARAGA, but these remain unused to this day. Some are even defective.

Among the problems found with the dental vehicles are the following:

COA also found that some equipment sent to Region II were defective such as stethoscopes, thermometers, and nebulizers. COA did not state the amount for the defective equipment in Region II.

COA said the DOH Secretary has agreed to conduct validation on all the equipment distributed to hospitals and health centers. DOH has also agreed to "impose sanctions against erring suppliers and DOH personnel who inspected and accepted the delivery thereof."

Delayed infrastructure

There are also P1.5 billion worth of infrastructure projects under the HFEP which were flagged by COA.

These are either yet to start, delayed, or not used despite completion. COA said this has delayed "the benefits that the public could have derived from the immediate and maximum use of the said facilities."

For Baguio General Hospital Medical Center (BGHMC), Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center (JRRMC), Philippine Orthopedic Center, and DOH Regional Office IX, P291 million worth of upgrades have been stalled due because they are not being used. Problems found include wall and flooring cracks in the building, and logistical mishaps such as the lack of occupancy permits.

For Quirino Memorial Medical Center (QMMC) in Quezon City, Bataan General Hospital (BGH), Cotabato Regional and Medical Center (CRMC), and DOH offices in regions V, VI and XI, P1.18 billion worth of upgrades were not completed within contract time.

COA said the delays were caused by permit problems, unavailability of materials and laborers, and frequent weather disturbances. 

COA added that contractors with bad records were still tapped for the projects. "A contractor was still awarded with several projects by DOH V despite having a previous project in the agency whose accomplishment was delayed or already overdue at the time of award," COA said.

For Don Jose S. Monfort Medical Center Extension Hospital (DJSMMCEH) in Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo, P25 million worth of upgrades have not begun at all.

"Poor planning delayed the preparation of plans/program of works and estimates of 5 infrastructure projects, which resulted in the non-implementation of said projects, thus depriving constituents/public of the benefits of the program/projects," COA said.

COA said the DOH has agreed to address some of the requirements needed such as electrical lines to make sure that equipment can be used as soon as possible.

DOH said that from now on, state engineers will strictly monitor all ongoing hospital projects to make sure deficiencies are spotted and addressed immediately.

COA's audit reports can only point out problems and issue recommendations to concerned agencies. These reports, however, can serve as basis for the filing of complaints if and when anomalies are found. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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