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Cebu News

P577 million COVID-19 funds unused

The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  The Commission on Audit (COA) has called out the Department of 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 December 31, 2021, 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 Office (ROs) while P512.468 million remained at the DILG Central Office (CO).

The COA's record showed that ROs posted high utilization rates of 99.14 percent or P1.914 billion out of the P1.930 billion current year allotment under 2021 GAA and 92.73 percent, or P1.479 billion out of the P1.595 billion continuing year allotment under the 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 0 percent of its P321 continuing year allotment.

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

Furthermore, the COA said the audit team's review of the DILG's Statement of Allotments, Obligations and Balances (SAAODB) revealed that 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 the other COVID-19 allotments that the DILG-CO failed to are 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 Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao( BARMM), among others,” COA said.

DILG Explains

During inquiry, DILG 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”.

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

Furthermore, DILG said 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 the current personnel to assist in the day to day contact tracing operations.

But COA still said, “We recommended that Management maximize utilization of allotments through proper planning and timely implementation of planned activities during the period.”

COA also reminded DILG to require its Ministry of the Interior and Local Government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (MILG-BARMM) office to liquidate the P67.893-million fund it received previously from the CO for the supposed hiring of 510 additional contact tracers. – Philippine Star News Service, JMO (FREEMAN)

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