MANILA, Philippines – Expired. Rotting. Eaten by rats.
This was how state auditors found donations from the private sector intended for victims of Typhoon Ulysses (international name: Vamco), which hit the Philippines in November 2020.
Coursed through the Cagayan Valley field office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the donations included food and medicines, undistributed as of end-2021, or more than a year after these were received by the agency.
Based on the Commission on Audit (COA) report on the DSWD for 2021, released last July, the Region II office received 126,172 in-kind donations, but failed to distribute 21,824 of them.
For instance, auditors said they found “223 sachets of milk/choco powder…already expired and destroyed by rats.” They also found “1,434 bottles/tablets of medicines…about to expire in April 2022.” Canned goods were about to rot.
Why goods were not distributed
The Regional Resource Operation Section (RROS) was tasked to distribute 30,656 non-food items and 8,140 food items, but missed submitting a record of these to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
The reason, the RROS said: it was overwhelmed by the many donations coming it that it decided not to document them anymore. The RROS head also said they were not aware such reporting was required.
The said deficiencies in handling the donations “deprived intended beneficiaries of the aid they should have received at the time they [needed] it,” COA said. The agency in effect also faield “the donors who entrusted their donations to the agency.”
Donations diverted to DSWD-funded centers
Auditors also questioned why the DSWD diverted 16,602 of the donations to three centers it was already funding, instead of distributing them directly to families displaced by Typhoon Ulysses, as intended by private donors.
COA said the donated items were similar to what the agency was supposed to regularly purchase for the Cagayan Valley Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth, the Regional Haven for Women and Girls, and the Reception and Study Center for Children.
Auditors quoted the RROS chief as saying he didn’t have control over where in-kind donations should go, and that the decision was made by the head of the agency’s Disaster Response and Management Division.
In response to the audit findings, the DSWD leadership said regional directors had been told to comply with COA circulars covering the proper distribution and accounting of donations. – Rappler.com