COA reports

COA says DOH had unspent P59 billion of 2020 budget

COA says DOH had unspent P59 billion of 2020 budget

Some 100 frontliners of the Navotas City HospItal have received their second dose of the CoronaVac vaccine. Navotas has already vaccinated 1,901 city residents and workers in Priority Groups A1-A3. Photo from Navotas PIO

Navotas PIO

The Commission on Audit says the unused funds would have made a difference in the government's fight to stop the spread of COVID-19

As the country was in the thick of waging a war against COVID-19, government auditors were puzzled why Department of Health (DOH) did not touch P59.125 billion of its budget allotment in 2020.

That unspent amount was 29% of the DOH’s total 2020 budget of P200.855 billion, a war chest designed to deal with the national health crisis.

These findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) of the unspent funds was a separate audit finding from the P67 billion worth of DOH transactions that the state auditors also red-flagged.

In the other audit report on the DOH for 2020, released on August 11, COA said it found “various deficiencies” of about P67.3 billion in the health department’s funds that led to “missed opportunities” in the pandemic response.

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The deficiencies spotted by COA included lack of transparency, non-compliance with rules and regulations on fund releases, and irregularities in the procurement processes. 

This time, regarding the unspent funds, COA said had these financial resource been put to good use it would have helped improve public health facilities, hospital services, and provide adequate protective gear to health care workers in the frontlines.

“The billions of pesos…that have remained not obligated and disbursed as at year-end and funds that were reverted back to the national treasury are counter-beneficial to the continuing efforts towards ensuring access to basic public health services, further buttressing the health care delivery system, and most importantly controlling the spread of COVID-19,” said the COA. 

The audit report identified these unspent funds as P24.641 billion in unobligated allotments or money that is not assigned to any specific program, project or activity; and P34.484 billion in unpaid obligations or money that was not paid to suppliers, contractors, or as manpower compensation.

State auditors also found P9.118 billion had to be returned to the Bureau of Treasury by the DOH-Central Office.

COA said the DOH’s failure to use the allocations was not in step with President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation No. 922, declaring a state of public health emergency throughout the country; Proclamation No. 929, declaring a state of calamity due to COVID-19; and Proclamation No. 1021 extending the period of the state of calamity.

“All these presidential issuances provided that all government agencies …are enjoined to continue rendering full assistance …and mobilize the necessary resources to undertake critical, urgent and appropriate disaster response measures,” the audit team said.

COA says DOH had unspent P59 billion of 2020 budget

Heeding the call of the president, other agencies were ordered to reprogram, reallocate, and realign savings, and other budget items as part of prioritizing pandemic response.

Auditors said the unspent DOH funds would have made a difference in the government’s efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.

“(T)he unobligated allotments and unpaid obligations totaling P24,641,119,764.42 and P34,483,710,711.50, respectively as of December 31, 2020 are very material and are more than enough to affect the level of efficiency …(of) the agency’s implementation of capabilities and its response to urgent health care needs,” it said.

In the COA report, the DOH Accounting Division acknowledged that the additional Notices of Cash Allocations issued by the Department of Budget and Management for COVID-19 response were not fully utilized.

DOH Accounting said this was because of the nature of the transactions involved. It said that the bulk procurement of big-ticket items, like medical equipment and upgrade of facilities, the rules required that there should be full delivery before payment could be released.

DOH also said that other factors which affected transactions were the lockdowns and manpower problems after key personnel were infected with COVID-19. – Rappler.com