MANILA – The Department of Health (DOH) did not comply with existing laws and regulations in managing some P67.323 billion in COVID-19 response funds, the Commission on Audit said in its 2020 report made public on Wednesday.
Purchases worth P5.038 billion were found to lack documentation and had procedural deficiencies, acts that violated the Government Procurement Reform Act, according to government auditors.
The deficiencies noted were purchases found to be disadvantageous to the government amounting to P194.403 million, as well as defects in the sworn statements in contracts, non-posting of procurement information on government website and non-provision of technical specifications in contracts. 
At least P69.942 million worth of medical equipment and supplies were also procured but remained unutilized or were not immediately used due to factors that could have been avoided if proper procurement planning was followed, COA added. 
Liquidated damages totaling P4.49 million were also not applied against payments to suppliers, which denied the government immediate means to enforce compensation. 
Some P275.908 million in the form of cash allowances, gift certificates, and grocery items also did not have legal basis.
Donations in-kind amounting to around P1.405 billion were also not properly documented.
The report also noted some P11.89 billion were unobligated, despite an urgent need to strengthen the capacity of the DOH to address the pandemic.
“This condition affects the utilization of COVID-19 funds vis-a-vis the agency’s implementation capabilities and its response to the urgent healthcare needs during the time of state of calamity/national emergency,” the report noted.
Continuous audit also disclosed additional deficiencies in the aggregate amount of P1.036 billion. 
The deficiencies noted were improper charging of transactions, utilization of funds not for intended purposes, and low or zero utilization of funds amounting to P488.953 million.
There were also “doubtful liquidations” of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) claims credited against the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism funds amounting to P81.818 million.
The report noted that Health Secretary Francisco Duque was requested to implement the recommendations made by the auditors, among them to remind DOH officials to strictly comply with existing procurement laws and regulations through the issuance of a memorandum. 
The auditors also recommended that the DOH conduct a thorough investigation on the irregularities through its internal audit service and impose proper administrative sanctions if needed.
Duque was likewise reminded that his officials and employees should ensure that all transactions are adequately supported with the required documents. 
The commission said Duque’s office received its 302-page report on July 30, 2021.
ABS-CBN is reaching out to DOH for comments, as of this posting.
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