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DOT called out over lapses in COVID-19 fund use

Elizabeth Marcelo - The Philippine Star
DOT called out over lapses  in COVID-19 fund use
In its 2020 annual audit report, COA noted that the agency allocated a total of P72.5 million for its COVID-related procurements and activities for the year. Of the amount, P65.5 million came from its realigned regular funds while P7 million was sourced from its attached agency, the Tourism Promotions Board.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Audit (COA) has called out the Department of Tourism (DOT) over lapses in the utilization of millions of pesos intended for its COVID-19 response lastyear.

In its 2020 annual audit report, COA noted that the agency allocated a total of P72.5 million for its COVID-related procurements and activities for the year. Of the amount, P65.5 million came from its realigned regular funds while P7 million was sourced from its attached agency, the Tourism Promotions Board.

Although it did not provide figures on the total utilization rate of DOT’s COVID funds, it noted that at least P15.8 million was obligated and disbursed by the Central Office and P11.1 million was downloaded to regional offices, which showed a low utilization rate “due to the late downloading of funds.”

The COA cited as example the P3.9-million fund intended for inspection and accreditation of accommodation establishments and provision of assistance to stranded tourists that was not utilized by the regional offices in Cagayan Valley, Bicol, Central Visayas and Zamboanga peninsula as of Dec. 31, 2020 because these were downloaded to them only in the last quarter of the year.

Furthermore, the COA said the disbursements by the regional offices in Central Luzon, Western Visayas and Caraga, totaling P1.03 million were not supported by necessary documents.

Meanwhile, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said her department has strengthened its cooperation with both the public and private sectors to bring more SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.

“Inoculating our tourism frontliners all over the country will be a key factor in reopening the industry as well as restoring the public’s confidence to travel, translating to higher socio-economic activities and boosting our recovery prospects,” she said in a statement. –  Ralph Edwin Villanueva

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