COA flags DOH's P95.15-M expired, idle drugs, medicines

State auditors flagged the Department of Health (DOH) over expired, nearly expired, slow-moving, and overstocked drugs and medicines worth P95,151,889.46.

This was contained in the audit report on the DOH for 2020, released on Wednesday, August 11. State editors flagged the following "indiscriminate wastage of government funds and resources" on the health department's funds:

  • Expired drugs and medicines – P6,606,809.90
  • Overstocked/slow-moving/idle drugs and medicines – P69,011,967.18
  • Near-expiry drugs and medicines – P20,056,281.90

"This recurring problem of the DOH has resulted in indiscriminate wastage of government funds and resources, and impedes the attainment of DOH’s mission of leading the country in the development of a productive, resilient, equitable, and people-centered health system," the COA report said.

State auditors recommended that DOH take "concrete steps in resolving issues with the recurring problem such as improvement of procurement planning, strengthening of distribution and monitoring systems, and review of internal controls."

They also directed the legal service of the agency to conduct a probe into erring employees "whose neglect caused wastage of government funds."

'Excessive spending'

In its report, state auditors said that the overstocked, idle, and slow-moving drugs and medicines were proof of "excessive spending."

"While it cannot be denied that there are a lot of Filipinos in need of drugs and medicines, especially in the countryside, millions-worth of DOH inventories were allowed to expire, thereby constituting indiscriminate wastage of government funds/resources," COA said.

Aside from this, state auditors also found "various deficiencies" amounting to P67.3 billion in the health department's funds that led to "missed opportunities" in the country's pandemic response.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, however, said the funds had been "fully accounted for," having been spent on the procurement of test kits, personal protective equipment, payment of health care workers' benefits, salaries of human resources for health, among others.

Duque said the DOH is open and ready to show the public how the funds were used. 

"We take our COA findings very seriously and have been working to  further improve our processes and controls so that we can serve the public most effectively especially during this pandemic," he added.

More than a year into the pandemic, the Philippines is still struggling to contain the deadly virus that has so far infected 1.6 million and killed over 29,000 of its population. The government has been criticized for its slow response to the health crisis.

Lawmakers, both in the House and Senate, have called for the resignation of Duque. The health secretary, however, still enjoys the trust of President Rodrigo Duterte. – Rappler.com

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.

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