Defense dept, LGUs biggest violators on disaster funds use: COA

Carolyn Bonquin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 23 2017 10:09 AM | Updated as of Jan 23 2017 05:47 PM

The Department of National Defense and local government units are the biggest violators of rules on the use of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Funds in 2015, according to a Commission on Audit report. 

A 2015 Consolidated Report on the Audit of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund released last January 19 stated that only 48.19% of available DRRMF was used in 2015. 

A copy of the report was sent to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who holds the concurrent post of chairman of the NDRRMC, last January 10. It was published on January 19.

COA spotted a number of problems in the way LGUs handled the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (LDRRMF), especially on failure to comply with Republic Act 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.

Based on the findings, state auditors found that 183 LGUs failed to transfer unused balance of P3.05-billon LDRRMF to a special trust fund, as required by RA 10121.

The law states that an LGU shall deposit unspent funds to a special trust fund to support disaster risk reduction and management activities within the next five years. The funds, if not fully utilized within five years, will be reverted back to the general fund for local social services.

Contrary to RA 10121's mandate of allotting at least 5% revenue to LDRRMF, 22 LGUs also failed to allot P124.946 million for disaster risk management activities.

Because of this, COA is uncertain if the DRRM projects and programs of these LGUs have been fully and effectively implemented.

Among the local government units which failed to allocate funds are the National Capital Region, P93.8 million; Region IV-A, P15.228 millon; Region 1, P8.571 million; Region 5, P6.995 million; Region 4-B, P355,231.90, and Cordillera Administrative Region, P10,000. Meanwhile, the unallocated amount of Regions VI and VIII were not indicated in the report.

COA also found that 57 LGUs have no Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, which should monitor and implement disaster risk reduction and management activities.

On DND

Among the National Government Agencies (NGA) audited, COA made specific recommendations on how the DND should use its Quick Response Funds (QRF) after the defense agency inappropriately used the funds, and failed to comply with regulations on transferring funds to offices with unsettled cash accountabilities.

Out of P572.9 million available disaster response funds in 2015, DND only used P236.31 million.

COA said DND used P128.626 million for the repairs and reconstruction of the DND and Bureau's facilities.

This includes the repair, maintenance and reconstruction of permanent structures of Central Command using P41.824 million; and construction of facilities of OCD Regional Office IX, P8.983 million; OCD Regional Office II and equipment, P7.207; and OCD Regional Office II, P15.914 million.

COA reminded DND that rehabilitation and reconstruction projects should be handled by the Department of Public Works and Highways. 

State auditors also reiterated that a QRF should only be used as stand-by fund for immediate relief and rescue during calamities., to normalize the situation as quickly as possible. 

"The utilization of funds amounting to P73,929,934.91 for repairs/reconstruction, using the QRF, was not in accordance with the intended purpose of QRF as authorized in DND's budget," COA said.

COA also questioned the DND's transfer of P120.271 million QRF to various implementing agencies despite these offices' remaining unliquidated fund transfers. COA Circular No. 97-002 mandates that an official or employee should first settle previous cash advances before receiving additional cash advances.

The following implementing agencies have yet to liquidate fund transfers from DND:

Office of Civil Defense (P203.888 million);
Philippine Army (P110.379 million); 
Philippine Navy (P66.251 million); 
AFP-General Headquarters (P54.246 million); 
Philippine Air Force (P20.116 million); and
Philippine Military Academy (P1.236 million).

COA has also asked DND to refund a total of P1,967,062.44 QRF, after purchasing personal protective equipment, medical supplies, bottled water at an overpriced amount. It turned out that the DND paid P3.325 million for the supplies, when the prices per audit only totaled P1.376 millon.

‘EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES’

The DND in a statement Monday responded to the findings of the audit saying that they have already clarified the results which their office received last January 10.

“The said consolidated report contains observations and findings of past audits, which the Department had already replied to and clarified,” it said.
 
The DND said the repairs noted by COA were undertaken to address the damage sustained by facilities in calamities as quickly as possible.

“For the repairs/reconstruction of facilities which were noted by COA to be not in accordance with the purposes of the QRF, we maintain that these were undertaken to ensure that the facilities and equipment utilized by humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) personnel affected by calamities may be normalized as quickly as possible,” the statement read.

With regards to the release of QRF to various implementing agencies with unliquidated fund transfers, the DND said they saw the need to urgently transfer funds given the “extraordinary circumstances” at the time.

“There was a need to strike a balance between policy and urgency of requirements in order to restore public service and provide support to damaged facilities in disaster-affected areas,” the department said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has also issued guidance for relevant offices to conduct a review on the items raised in the COA consolidated report.