MANILA - The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday said it is 'currently addressing... compliance issues and deficiencies' after the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged that the agency failed to properly account for P67-billion worth of COVID-19 funds.
Of the P79.7 billion COVID-19 funds given to the DOH, P68.9 billion have been utilized as of December 31, 2020, the agency said in a statement.
"With the enactment of RA No. 11519 extending the availability of appropriations under Bayanihan II, the Department was still able to utilize the unobligated balance for this year," the statement read.
The DOH takes COA findings "very seriously" and has been "working to further improve our processes and controls," Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.
"The Php 67.3 billion is accounted for. Wala pong kinurakot, inilaan natin ang mga pondong ito para sa ating mga kababayan," he said.
(There is no corruption, all these funds were allocated for our countrymen.)
"Rest assured, that the funds allotted to the DOH are all spent for the procurement of test kits, PPEs, payment of HCWs benefits, salaries of HRH among others," he said.
"Bukas po ang aming tanggapan at handa po kaming ipakita sa ating mga kababayan na tama ang paggastos ng kanilang mga taxes."
(Our agency is open and we are ready to show our countrymen that we are properly spending their taxes.)
In its 2020 report made public on Wednesday, the COA noted that the DOH "violated the Government Procurement Reform Act" after it failed to properly document some P5.038-billion worth of purchase.
The deficiencies noted were purchases found to be disadvantageous to the government amounting to P194.403 million, COA said, noting that there were also defects in the sworn statements in contracts, non-posting of procurement information on government website and non-provision of technical specifications in contracts.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, lawmakers have been questioning the DOH's spending, alleging the agency has been procuring overpriced items needed for the Philippines' pandemic response program.
Several senators signed a document calling for Duque's resignation in 2020, but President Rodrigo Duterte defended his Health chief and even called the secretary a "hero" of the pandemic during his last State of the Nation Address in July.