MANILA— Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday said he already directed Department of Health officials to answer the Commission on Audit’s findings on the agency's alleged failure to properly account for over P67 billion in COVID-19 funds.
Duque, in an interview on TeleRadyo, said he tasked his undersecretary for administration and finance and for procurement and supply chain management to answer the COA findings in its 2020 report, which was made public on Wednesday.
“Ang binigay ng COA sa amin is up to September 27 para bigyan ng kasagutan 'yung kanilang mga findings. Ngayon ang gusto ko, sabi ko sa mga opisyal ko I don’t want to wait up to September 27. I want it by early next week sagutin na lahat 'yan,” said Duque.
(The COA gave us until Sept. 27 to answer their findings. Now I told my officials that I don't want to wait up to Sept. 27. I want it by early next week.)
The health chief maintained that the P67.3 billion funds flagged by COA are all accounted for.
“Sasagutin namin lahat 'yan, walang problema at in fact, 'yung P69-B na galing sa Bayanihan 1 and 2 na budget for pandemic response halos 98 percent sa Bayanihan 1 ang na-obligate na 'yan, sa Bayanihan 2 naman 93 percent na ang na-obligate,” Duque said, referring to the COVID-19 emergency response laws.
(That’s not a problem, we will answer all of that and in fact, the P69-B from the Bayanihan 1 and 2 budget for pandemic response, almost 98 percent from Bayanihan 1 has been obligated and 93 percent from Bayanihan 2. Around P68-B has been obligated,” he said.
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.
“Sasagutin natin lahat 'yan kasi pondo ng bayan 'yan, taxpayers' money 'yan and mandato ng ahensiya katulad ng DOH na magkaroon ng accountability, pananagutan sa pondo na inilalabas,” he said.
(We will answer that because that’s taxpayers’ money and its the mandate of the agency to have accountability in utilizing the funds.)
But Duque also appealed for understanding from the public as the DOH is operating under a state of public health emergency and at limited capacity, with many among its workforce are also getting sick from the virus.
“Ang ating workforce di full capacity, ang ating ginagawa 30 percent lang so nagkakaroon ng antala sa submission ng mga dokumento pero hindi dahil walang dokumento. May dokumento. But you have to organize all of these, contracts for review lahat 'yan. Ano 'yung memorandum of agreement, list of items, ano ba 'yung scheduled delivery. Mahirap 'yung magbabayad ng basta-basta nang hindi malinaw, walang legal basis,” he said.
(We're only operating at 30 percent capacity so there are delays in the submission of documents, not because there are no documents. There are documents. But you have to organize all of these, these are all contracts for review. What’s the memorandum of agreement, the list of items, the delivery schedule… you can’t just pay without a clear and legal basis.)
He assured the public that the funds allotted for the DOH are spent for the procurement of personal protective equipment, test kits, life-saving equipment and payment of health care workers' benefits, among others.
Duque said the DOH will cooperate with the investigation and even welcome it.