COA flags 'lapses' in aid payment to over 38,000 Samar pandemic frontliners in 2020

The Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged “deficiencies and lapses” in the payment of more than P40 million in pandemic aid to over 38,000 frontliners in Samar in 2020.

In its 2020 audit report on the provincial government of Samar, which COA released through its website on July 12, state auditors cited the P40,207,500 in financial assistance that provincial government paid out to 38,747 Samar pandemic frontliners in 947 barangays.

“Deficiencies and lapses were noted in the payment of financial assistance totalling P40,207,500 to 38,747 payees/beneficiaries of 947 barangays of the province, thus, there was no assurance that the exact amount of financial assistance was actually received by the intended beneficiaries who rendered service to contain the spread of COVID-19,” COA said in its executive summary of the audit report.

The beneficiaries included barangay officials who received P2,500 each, and barangay tanods, barangay health workers, and volunteers who were allotted P500 each.

COA said that the audit of liquidation documents showed that the payments to the 38,747 beneficiaries were not supported by certifications that they worked in the barangay’s COVID-19 response team.

The auditors also found payments to 13,578 beneficiaries as “dubious,” citing, among others, that 6,734 payments were claimed by individuals who are not the intended beneficiaries and either had no  authorization or had invalid authorization to ensure that the payment went to the beneficiaries.

They also found that while 5, 783 payouts were supported by authorizations, the amounts that these beneficiaries received were not provided, so there was no proof as to the exact amount received.

COA’s recommendation to Samar Governor Reynolds Michael Tan is “to direct the submission of duly signed payrolls, certificates of service of all payees/ beneficiaries, attestation documents/statements showing the lack of writing and reading abilities of some payees who only affixed their thumbmarks, and valid authority to claim specific amount, for the proper documentation of the grant of financial assistance.”

COA also recommended that Tan “order the accountable officer concerned to provide explanation on the deficiencies noted in the payment of financial assistance.”

COA said its recommendation is without prejudice to the issuance of a Notice of Suspension or Disallowance, it warranted.

In its May 28 response to COA, the provincial accountant said " this office is undertaking the necessary checking of supporting documents and reconciliations to validate discrepancies, and cause the collation and submission of the lacking supporting documents."

In the audit report, COA flagged the provincial government of Samar for over 500 sacks of rice intended for pandemic aid in 2020 that were “unaccounted [for], lost, or missing.” –