COA flags DOLE's 'insufficient' control measures on COVID-19 funds

Adrian Ayalin and Zen Hernandez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 16 2021 06:56 PM | Updated as of Aug 16 2021 08:18 PM

COA DOLE

MANILA - The Department of Labor and Employment's (DOLE) “insufficient internal control” measures led to unclaimed amounts of funds amounting to P22.432 million intended for workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Commission on Audit (COA).

In a 2020 report on the DOLE released Monday, COA said the amount under the COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) and Abot-Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) programs are still in the possession of money remittance centers (MRC).

During the exit conference, however, the DOLE management informed the audit team that efforts are being made to reach out to the beneficiaries.

“Moreover, the refund for the remaining unclaimed transactions was already requested from the MRC on January 26, 2021,” the DOLE management told the audit team. 

Overall, government auditors noted that the DOLE, under the Bayanihan 1 and Bayanihan 2 laws, has utilized P12.139 billion not just for CAMP and AKAP but for Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) program as well.

The report noted a 76.45% utilization rate but P3.76 billion remains unutilized.

Out of the utilized funds for CAMP, TUPAD AND AKAP however, a total of P1.023 million were given as excessive or multiple payments to 213 beneficiaries. 

“The above excessive payments to the beneficiaries were mainly due to the lack of control measures in the processing of claims, thus to the detriment of other qualified applicants who have not availed of any financial assistance that could immediately help them alleviate their economic struggles brought about by the COVID-19 Pandemic,” the report said. 

DOLE management however told the auditors that those were not overpayments, but due payments to the concerned beneficiaries.

Among the reasons the DOLE management said was TUPAD beneficiaries may avail twice under the same program.

The DOLE also reported that the P1.572 billion unliquidated cash advance as of December 30, 2020, wherein P‪974.513‬ million or 62% pertains to the DOLE- Central Office, has been reduced to P‪216.301 million as of July 31, 2021.

The report noted that the DOLE management agreed to require the concerned offices to conduct further investigation and design additional control measures to avoid double payment of financial assistance funds. 

The audit team also noted that programs of DOLE’s regional offices as well the Philippines Overseas Labor Office totaling P336.159 million lacked documents such as official receipts. 

Various POLO offices such as in Jordan, Bahrain and Riyadh have submitted all the lacking documents, as recommended by the audit team.

“Management agreed with the audit recommendations,” the audit team said. 

According to DOLE, its regional offices release financial assistance via money remittance centers or cash advances to bonded Special Disbursing Officers for payment to qualified beneficiaries. It also grants cash advances to POLOs for operating expenses and cash assistance to OFWs.

The department pointed out that it has received two consecutive “Unqualified” audit opinion, which is the highest audit rating, from the COA in 2019 and 2020, and that it has been strictly adhering to audit rules.

The DOLE is currently requesting P2 billion of supplemental funds for CAMP in order to be able to distribute a one-time P5,000 cash assistance to around 400,000 workers hit by the latest enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila, as well as other areas that were placed under the strictest lockdown level. 

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) however found that DOLE still has unutilized funds amounting to P4.14 billion and is requesting for DOLE to provide an updated report.

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