Guevarra: Community quarantines hindered DOJ from spending P266M for Davao building, vehicles, other expenses in 2020

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 18 2021 08:52 PM

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra speaks during a press conference at the Department of Justice in Manila on September 16, 2019. Mark Demayo ABS-CBN News/File

DOJ has high budget utilization rate — 96.88% of P8.5B budget for 2020

MANILA — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday attributed to community quarantine restrictions the Justice department’s failure to use P226 million from its 2020 budget, part of which was intended for the construction of a building in Davao and the purchase of motor vehicles.

“The DOJ has explained to the COA that its inability to utilize fully its appropriations for capital outlay in 2020 was caused mainly by delays in the procurement process occasioned by the series of community quarantines,” he said in response to a query from the media. 

The COA audit report said that for 2020, the DOJ used P8.27 billion pesos or 96.88% of its P8.5-billion budget for that year, one of the highest among national government agencies.

However, P226 million or 3.12% were not utilized. 

These funds were allocated to personal services, maintenance and other operating expenses and projects for capital outlay.

Two of the projects under capital outlay were not partly implemented — the construction of a DOJ building in Davao worth P50 million and the purchase of motor vehicles worth almost P4 million.

Some P1.6 million for communications network, P1.81 million for furniture and fixture, P8.6 million for information and communication equipment and more than P200,000 for ICT software were also not obligated.

“The inability of DOJ to fully utilize the allotment received is not in keeping with the efficient spending as required in the afore-mentioned DBM Budget Circulars. Moreover, the unobligated allotment of P226,232,741.22 may have impact in overall cash program of the government as the same can be utilized for other priority projects especially during these trying times,” the COA audit report said.

The audit report included the DOJ’s explanations, which said that the memorandum of agreement for the proposed construction of a DOJ building in Davao City has not yet been signed by the contracting parties, supposedly outside the control of the DOJ.

The special allotment release order (SARO) meanwhile for the purchase of the vehicles were released only in December 2020, making it impossible to comply with procurement timelines.

The other items were not spent because of time constraints and the implementation of several community quarantines, lockdown and work suspensions.

Guevarra on Wednesday however said that they are addressing COA’s findings.

“The DOJ is presently maximizing the utilization of allotments by speeding up the implementation of projects planned for the rest of the year, and cascading available resources to its regional prosecution and other allied offices,” he said.

For context, the DOJ’s P226-million unused funds is much smaller compared to the P11.89-billion unused COVID-19 funds of the Department of Health and the P3.76-billion unused funds from Bayanihan 2 allocated to the Department of Labor and Employment.

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