Commission on Audit

COA uncovers questionable claims in distribution of DOLE’s pandemic ayuda in Pampanga

Rappler.com
COA uncovers questionable claims in distribution of DOLE’s pandemic ayuda in Pampanga

Residents queue to receive cash assistance from the government following the imposition of two-week lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus Delta variant, at an evacuation center, in Manila, Philippines, August 11, 2021.

Lisa Marie David/Reuters

State auditors flag thousands of names with dubious details submitted by beneficiaries of the 2021 Tupad Program for workers who were severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

The 2021 report of the Commission of Audit on the province of Pampanga questioned the distribution of a P91.18 million pandemic mitigation cash assistance, which it said was riddled with names with dubious details in about 23% of the more than 20,000 beneficiaries.

Among the questionable information cited in the COA audit report of Pampanga released May 16, was that 2,600 recipients had similar identification cards or ID numbers.

The Tupad Program or “Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers” of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) aimed to help workers who were laid off or lost their means of livelihood from the informal sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It handed out a one-time stipend of P4,200 “to cushion and/or mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to the livelihood/business and worker sector.”

However, COA uncovered patterns of suspicious data in the Pampanga masterlist of grantees. “Review of the said Masterlist showed that of the 21,710 beneficiaries, 5,012 (23% or almost one in four) have either the same names and birthdates, contact numbers, type of ID, or ID numbers,” the government auditors said.

The COA reported that cloning of IDs and ID numbers (or the sharing of a single information among different assignees) was the most common violation. 

The most number of suspicious beneficiaries were in the following towns:

  • Lubao with 1,365 names, 
  • Arayat with 1,290, 
  • Magalang with 906, 
  • Mexico with 903, and 
  • Sasmuan with 490.

The audit found 1,289 individuals each from Lubao and Arayat shared the “same type of ID and ID numbers.” There were 60 additional beneficiaries from Lubao who submitted to the provincial government the same cloned IDs.

Tupad recipients from the town Mexico (903), Magalang (895), and Sasmuan (490) had only a single set of contact numbers 

There were also cases of individuals who provided either expired or no longer working cell phone numbers.

“It would be difficult to confirm actual receipt by beneficiary of the financial assistance since most of the numbers called belong only to one beneficiary. Moreover, the registered 850 contact numbers were not reliable since these can neither be reached nor with the correct number,” the audit team said.

The COA noted that the spurious information given by thousands of beneficiaries made verification nearly impossible. 

“It would be difficult to confirm actual receipt by beneficiary of the financial assistance since most of the numbers called belong only to one beneficiary. Moreover, the registered 850 contact numbers were not reliable since these can neither be reached nor with the correct number,” the audit team said.

There are also cases of double payouts to the same persons. These happened in the towns of Magalang, Lubao, Candaba, Mabalacat, Guagua, Sta. Rita and the City of San Fernando.

COA clarified that DOLE allowed to have a proxy collect the benefit. The DOLE required, however, that the substitute must be a recipient’s immediate family member.

However, in an incident in Magalang, one person collected the pay out of 35 Tupad claimants.

There were also cases uncovered in random checks of 16 workers who were recorded as having been paid the cash assistance but told the auditors they did not receive anything.

Pampanga’s Public Employment Services Office (PESO) said the limitations brought about by the pandemic health regulations may have been a factor in these cases the auditors cited.

The provincial PESO said the profiling, encoding, and printing of the TUPAD requirements were accomplished at the local government level. 

Pampanga assured COA that procedures were being evaluated to improve compliance and prevent recurrence of adverse audit findings. – Rappler.com