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State auditors have called out the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in the Zamboanga Peninsula for distributing canned goods without halal labels and providing rice unfit for human consumption as disaster relief aid in the region during 2022.
The Commission on Audit (COA) pointed out the DSWD-IX’s shortcomings in assisting needy families in the region through its 2022 audit report, which was made public on August 15.
Auditors noted that each relief aid package should have contained six kilograms of iron-fortified rice, four 155-gram cans of tuna flakes, four 150-gram cans of corned beef, two 155-gram cans of sardines, five sachets of instant coffee, five sachets of instant hot chocolate mix, 250 grams of fortified margarine, and 10 sachets of multi-nutrient growth mixture, based on DSWD’s Administrative Order 02-2021.
The state auditors, in a report sent to Social Welfare Secretary Rex Gatchalian on July 26, said halal labels were mandatory for all canned food items in the relief aid package.
However, state auditors found the absence of margarine, 10 sachets of multi-nutrient growth mixture, and two sachets of instant hot chocolate malt during an unannounced inspection of the relief aid packages.
The COA also noted that several cans of tuna flakes lacked the required halal labeling.
They said beneficiaries were unaware of the deficiencies as the external packaging did not provide information on the contents.
State auditors also observed that the rice was of substandard quality, characterized by broken grains, an aged appearance, and a dull color – a notable contrast to the rice distributed by DSWD’s central office.
The COA, nonetheless, acknowledged that the DSWD regional office took proactive measures in January 2022 by returning subpar rice to the National Food Authority (NFA).
When they compared the canned tuna with similar products from the DSWD central office, auditors suspected that there was something wrong. “The two canned goods have the same brand name, and the color and design of the label are nearly alike but the details and information found on their labels differ, giving the impression that one was an imitation of the other,” read part of the COA report.
In response to the findings, the DSWD ordered disaster response officials in the Zamboanga Peninsula to make sure that relief aid packs have a contents list, proper halal labeling on canned goods, and ensure acceptable food aid quality. – Rappler.com