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DILG failed to utilize P577 million COVID-19 funds – COA

Elizabeth Marcelo - The Philippine Star
DILG failed to utilize P577 million COVID-19 funds â COA
The photo of the Commission on Audit's office in Quezon CIty taken on Aug. 17, 2021.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Audit (COA) has called out the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) over P577.053 million in unutilized COVID-19 funds, the bulk of which was intended for contact-tracing operations.

In its annual audit report on the DILG, the COA noted that as of Dec. 31 last year, the agency has yet to obligate or utilize 14.29 percent or P577.053 million of its P4.038-billion total allotment for COVID-19 response under Republic Act 11518 or the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2021 and RA 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2).

The COA’s breakdown showed that out of the total allotment, P3.525 billion was downloaded to the DILG’s Regional Offices (ROs) while P512.468 million remained at the DILG Central Office (CO).

The COA’s record indicated that ROs posted high utilization rates of 99.14 percent or P1.914 billion out of the P1.930 billion current year allotment under the 2021 GAA and 92.73 percent, or P1.479 billion out of the P1.595 billion continuing year allotment under Bayanihan 2.

On the other hand, the CO only utilized 35.46 percent or P67.893 million of its P191.467 million current year allotment and none or zero percent of its P321 million continuing year allotment.

The COA said this made the CO responsible for the bulk or P444.575 million or 77.04 percent of the P577.053 million total unutilized COVID-19 response fund of the agency.

The COA added that the audit team’s review of the DILG’s Statement of Allotments, Obligations and Balances revealed that the CO’s low fund utilization was traced mainly to unused allotment amounting P343.166 million for “other general services,” where the salaries of contact-tracers were supposed to be charged.

Among other COVID-19 allotments that the DILG-CO failed to utilize were P15 million for “medical, dental and laboratory expenses,” P8.966 million for “training expenses,” P8.798 million for “communication expenses,” P9.424 million for “other supplies and materials expenses” and P3.171 million for “drugs and medicines expenses.”

“From the foregoing information, funds were not fully utilized and later reverted to the unappropriated surplus of the general fund due to change of plans and funds intended for payment to contact-tracers were not fully downloaded/transferred to ROs and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), among others,” the COA said.

During the inquiry of the audit team, the DILG management explained that payments for contract tracers under the “other general services” allotment were not released in full to the ROs “because some were hired in between the six-month period and late submission of required documents by qualified contact tracers.”

The DILG management also explained that the BARMM’s contact-tracing requirements charged against the 2021 current year appropriations were not immediately released “in view of the latter’s failure to immediately liquidate the previous year’s fund transfer.”

The DILG added that its CO did not hire additional administrative staff to support the operations and reportorial requirements in connection to contact-tracing efforts as it just utilized current personnel to assist in the day-to-day contact-tracing operations.

“We recommended that the management maximize utilization of allotments through proper planning and timely implementation of planned activities during the period,” the COA, nonetheless, still told the DILG.

The COA also reminded the DILG to require its Ministry of the Interior and Local Government of the BARMM office to liquidate the P67.893-million fund it previously received from the CO for the supposed hiring of 510 additional contact-tracers.

COA

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