DOH in the regions: P1M for meals in meetings and other ‘irregular’ expenditures

The Commission on Audit (COA) released on Wednesday, August 11, their report on the Department of Health (DOH) for 2020, noting that P557.7 million worth of expenditures were irregular, unnecessary, or excessive.

This, among others, is one of numerous red flags the COA found in the way the DOH handled funds, together with how P67.3 billion worth of deficiencies were found in COVID-19 resources.

Most of the "irregular" disbursements were hazard pay, special risk allowance, or other allowances that were given to people who were “not qualified” to be public health workers, given during general community quarantine (GCQ) or modified GCQ, or even exceeded the allowable amount.

Other flagged expenditures were more concrete, like meals for virtual meetings, equipment, and medical supplies. 

Below, we list down some of the DOH’s notable expenditures that the COA said did not comply with established rules, procedural guidelines, policies, principles, and practices. 

We also list the regions where the irregularities happened.

Irregular salaries

Amount not utilized, not sufficiently documented: P238.6 million

Regions: Ilocos Region, Mimaropa

According to the COA report, around P238.6 million worth of salaries were not utilized or not supported by complete documentation. 

This category comprises the bulk, at 43.2%, of the items marked “irregular” in the report. These irregular salaries were recorded in three hospitals: the Region 1 Medical Center in Ilocos, and the Ospital ng Palawan and the Culion Sanitarium and General Hospital in Mimaropa.

Irregular payments of hazard pay, special risk allowance

Amount spent: P58.6 million

Regions: Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Davao Region

More than P58 million was spent against policy when the amount was released as hazard pay and special risk allowance to those who did not physically report to the office, were “not qualified” as public health workers, or during GCQ or MGCQ.

Irregular meals and accommodation

Amount: P110.3 million

Regions: Metro Manila, Cagayan Valley, Bicol, Western Visayas

P77.7 million in meals and accommodation benefits were given in cash in the Western Visayas Sanitarium (WVS) and the Western Visayas Medical Center, which went against DOH Administrative Order 2020-054. This AO serves as the legal basis for providing this kind of benefit to health workers.

Meanwhile, in the Bicol Region General Hospital and Geriatric Medical Center, P142,500 worth of meals were “improperly provided” before the effectivity date listed in the AO.

There was a similar case in Metro Manila when around P11.6 million was paid to health workers, without specific legal basis, from April to June 2020.

Catering for virtual meetings

Amount: P1.08 million

Region: Western Visayas

This is one of the two entries marked as “unnecessary” expenses of the DOH. According to the report, the DOH Center for Health Development in Western Visayas spent more than P1 million pesos for catering in virtual meetings. 

The report called the catering “not essential” for the activities, since participants were “in their respective work stations and performed their usual functions.”

‘Personal’ expenses

Amount: P141,269.70

Region: Cagayan Valley

The Cagayan Valley Medical Center spent more than P141,000 in expenses considered “personal in nature” and were charged against the hospital’s petty cash fund. 

The report found that this violated Sections 2 and 4 of the national auditing code, or Presidential Decree 1445.

Medical equipment procured above retail price

Amount: P984,500

Region: Cordillera Administrative Region

The cost of three unnamed medical supplies procured by the Far North Luzon General Hospital exceeded the maximum suggested retail prices prescribed by the DOH. The total price variance almost reached P1 million.

Undelivered equipment

Amount: P39,400

Region: Western Visayas

The WVS spent almost P40,000 for eight undelivered units of electric needle burners and syringe destroyers, which were supposed to come from Winegard Marketing.

The full COA report, with the rest of the DOH’s questionable expenditures, can be found on its website. – Rappler.com

Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer at Rappler. Possessing the heart and soul of a feminist, she is working on specializing in women's issues in Newsbreak, Rappler's investigative arm.

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Vernise Tantuco

Vernise Tantuco is on Rappler's Research Team, fact checking suspicious claims, wrangling data, and telling stories that need to be heard.

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