The COVID-19 pandemic would have been enough reason for the health department to do more to save lives during the first year of the public health crisis. Instead, it underutilized funds that were set aside for health services, state auditors said in a report.
Auditors also noted that even China’s donations were underutilized.
In its report, the Commission on Audit (DOH) flagged the Department of Health (DOH) for the low utilization of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Funds (DRRMF). It only spent over P316 million of about P1.7 billion entrusted to it in 2020.
Under the DRRMF of DOH, the department was given a Health Emergency Preparedness and Response (HEPR) fund of P279.49 million, but it spent only P69.59 million as of year-end.
It also had a Quick Response Fund (QRF) of P827.638 million, and a calamity fund amounting to P593.836 million. Yet COA said the DOH spent only P185.59 million of the QRF and P61 million of the calamity fund.
The low utilization of funds adversely impacted the delivery of health services that DOH should have delivered last year, according to the auditors.
What Marawi Hospital?
Take the case of the planned construction of the Marawi City General Hospital that should have started in 2020. Government auditors said the project did not take off because the DOH failed to use the P62-million budget released for site development and landscaping works.
The audit team said President Rodrigo Duterte approved the project on November 17, 2020, and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) already issued the special allotment release order (SARO) 10 days later.
“No obligation was made pertaining to these funds, thus, the same lapsed and were reverted to the national treasury,” COA said.
“We are of the view that the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic must inspire the DOH to do more. Health services play a vital role in saving the lives of Filipinos,” the COA said.
The DOH, however, blamed its low fund utilization on complicated and hazardous work, travel restrictions, lapses in procurement activities, lack of manpower, and few interested contractors or suppliers.
But auditors said given the department’s mandate to coordinate the government’s health programs and services, it was the DOH’s duty to “ensure efficient delivery of needed health services.”
COA also questioned the DOH’s underutilization of donations the government received from the Chinese embassy.
From the Chinese donations, the DOH only spent P4.145 million to buy a light cargo truck and a small delivery van. The remaining P42.67 million was reverted to the national treasury.
“The condition demonstrates that not enough programs and projects were implemented during the year in order to mitigate related risks and alleviate the people’s condition faster to recovery. It likewise manifests that there was no efficient use of fiscal resources despite hefty fund appropriations/allocations,” read part of the COA report. – Rappler.com