MANILA— A total of P780.71 million in funds given to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for cash assistance to pandemic-hit Filipinos was not utilized because of "insufficient validation process," denying aid to 139,300 qualified beneficiaries, a new Commission on Audit (COA) report showed.
Government auditors noted in the 2020 report on the DSWD that its field offices in Regions 2, 7, 8 and the Cordillera Administrative Region reported unutilized amounts for the program intended for individuals whose livelihood and income sources were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The total amount could have been given instead to an estimated 139,300 beneficiaries who could have qualified under the government's social amelioration program (SAP).
“Given the scarcity of government resources for COVID-19 expenses, there is a dire need to properly evaluate targeted beneficiaries through proper coordination and monitoring, and proper and efficient validation that could maximize the number of qualified beneficiaries who could benefit from the SAP,” the audit report said.
The accumulated funds that were returned from the regions were for various reasons such as the following:
• Initial lists of beneficiaries were found to have included ineligible or disqualified individuals
• Funds allocated for local governments were in excess of the actual number of eligible beneficiaries after validation
• Bloated number of poor families based on an old list created in the aftermath of Supertyphoon Yolanda
The regional offices were advised by the auditors to conduct adequate validation of beneficiaries and provide additional lists of qualified beneficiaries in case the master list is found to contain ineligible beneficiaries.
In the same audit report, unliquidated SAP fund transfers from local government units amounted to P4.363 billion.
Those with unliquidated fund transfers were the National Capital Region, Regions 4A, 4B, 5, 6 and 8.
“Processing of financial transaction and operations of the agency without sufficient and relevant documents and/or non-submission of liquidation reports will affect the validity and propriety of transactions,” the audit report said.
The report noted that the accountants of the field offices of the DSWD agreed to recommendations of the auditors, including the immediate submission of liquidation reports by the local government units.
The auditors also noted that there were unpaid SAP beneficiaries who were tagged in the DSWD database as “paid,” with a total amount of P920,000.
“Considering the fact that these beneficiaries believed that they were not paid, but in reality they were paid as shown in the database, casted doubt on the validity of payments made,” the report said.
The DSWD management told the auditors that they will validate their information if the financial service providers have actually indicated in their liquidation that the beneficiaries have been actually paid or if a refund was done.
Meanwhile, various lapses in the procurement of COVID-19 related goods and services in Regions 2, 4A, 9 and 11 totaling P232.58 million cast doubts on the transparency of the transactions.
The lapses included lack of proper documentation, non-preparation of project requirements, and non-posting of relevant information and documents in the DSWD website, among others.
The report noted that the DSWD management agreed to some of the recommendations, including the need to improve its commitment to sound internal control over disbursements and the adherence to the provisions of Republic Act No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.