P384-M disaster donations sitting in banks – COA

Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - November 1, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) has kept more than P384 million in donations stashed in its bank account instead of promptly distributing the money to finance the relief and rehabilitation of the victims of calamities and disasters, the Commission on Audit (COA) said.

In the 2014 report released recently, COA said the funds have been accumulating since 2008 because of its low utilization rate of only 17.39 percent.

Financial records showed only P81 million of P466 million was spent during the last six years, thus leaving an unutilized balance of P384 million.

State auditors said the biggest chunk of the money totaling P137 million was received by the OCD from various government agencies and other sources for victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda, which devastated the country in November 2013.

Of the amount, the COA report said the OCD had released only P38.755 million as of Dec. 31, 2014, leaving a balance of P98.24 million.

Records also showed the donations remain deposited in a trust account of the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) where it has earned P1.709 million in interest.

“Utilization of the donations from foreign and local donors in the total amount of P81,068,471.49 was low, depriving the calamity victims of the much needed assistance to alleviate their difficulties,” state auditors said.

The OCD had told COA that its failure to immediately release assistance intended for calamity and crisis victims was due to the beneficiaries or claimants’ lack of compliance with the requirements.

State auditors, however, said OCD should review and overhaul its system so that the money would reach its intended recipients without too many requirements that are difficult to produce considering that many lost their homes, property, and documents because of the calamities.

Lawmakers noted the underspending of concerned government agencies in the release of calamity funds.

Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez called for a congressional inquiry into what he called “calamity underspending” by OCD.

“This merits a full-blown investigation. Our country has been hit by calamity after calamity. There is no explanation and certainly no excuse that will justify why the money was not given to those who needed it most,” Benitez said.

Reps. Rodito Albano of Isabela; Lito Atienza (Buhay party-list); Ben Evardone (Eastern Samar); Leah Paquiz (Ang Nars party-list), and Ferdinand Martin Romualdez (Leyte) said the COA report only confirmed various reports that government agencies have been shockingly remiss in assisting calamity-hit areas despite Malacañang’s claims to the contrary.

“That’s unacceptable and inexcusable gross inefficiency. The calamity victims are victimized all over again as they continue to wallow in abject poverty instead of speedy recovery had these funds reached then in a timely and responsive manner,” Paquiz said.

They said the COA report showing the OCD has a “very low” utilization rate of only 17.39 percent despite receiving P466.019 million in donations was unacceptable.

Apart from Typhoon Yolanda, among the calamities that triggered donations either unspent or underspent were the 2013 Zamboanga siege, P158.924; 2013 and the Bohol earthquake at P4.983 million.

The COA also reported the agency’s Quick Response Fund (QRF), which accumulated to P923,153,721 as of Dec. 31, 2014 “was not utilized as envisioned and became idle.”

State auditors also reported there was clearly “no planned action of activities for the releases of funds resulting in the low rate of utilization.”

Atienza said the report only bolstered the widespread view that the government was insensitive to the needs of calamity victims. – With Paolo Romero

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