COA report questions Duque’s management of DOH: think-tank


Posted at Aug 12 2021 11:12 AM

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MANILA – The Commission of Audit report on the Department of Health’s deficiencies in managing billions in COVID-19 response funds puts into question Secretary Francisco Duque III’s leadership, a think-tank said.

The COA flagged DOH Wednesday for not complying with existing laws and regulations in managing some P67.323 billion in COVID-19 response funds, but DOH said the funds were accounted for.

“It’s less of an accounting question. It’s more of a governance question,” Institute for Leadership, Empowerment and Democracy Executive Director Zy-Za Suzara told ANC’s “Rundown.”

“It is more of a leadership and management question on the part of Secretary Duque and the other officials of the DOH,” she said.

Suzara said the DOH didn’t seem to show any sense of urgency in releasing funds to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You see funds allocated to DOH and they’re unused, and you see on the ground, you hear stories about people dying in hospital beds, dying outside hospitals, in parking lots, unable to find hospitals where their relatives and family members can be confined, where you see shortages in oxygen and other medical equipment. It makes you wonder if DOH had any sense of urgency in terms of using those funds, because those funds were provided precisely in order to respond better to the pandemic,” she noted.

“So that really means an inability to on the part of DOH to buttress the pandemic response as the COA audit report rightly pointed out.”

Suzara said the undisbursed funds could have been used to beef up the country’s contact tracing system and to compensate healthcare workers on time.

“I don’t think at any point in time during the crisis there was less need for DOH to use those funds. If you remember last year, even if Metro Manila went on a lockdown, there were still a lot of issues specially with respect to fixing the contact tracing systems…healthcare workers demanding their own pay because it was late, healthcare workers demanding their hazard pay.”

The DOH could have spent the funds for the COVID-19 response in areas outside of Metro Manila, she added.

Suzara also stressed that the health emergency was not an excuse for the DOH to make procurements without the proper documentation.

“Yes the government allowed emergency procurement, but emergency procurement also doesn’t mean that government can go ahead without the necessary documentation, without following the processes that are you know, stipulated in the government procurement law.”

“The emergency procurement system that was allowed by the government last year is basically just to speed up the process, but it doesn’t mean setting aside the rules, especially the transparency regulations required there,” she stressed.

Suzara said the DOH’s financial and administrative departments should have ensured that the bureau followed proper procurement procedures, even as it faced an uphill battle in fighting the pandemic.

“It’s something that I really don’t understand. How could this happen, especially when it involves huge amounts of funds? They ran to the billions of pesos.”

Suzara said the COA report puts into question how DOH is using its funds.

“Obviously, it’s a huge amount of money, so if DOH is not really being very transparent about how these funds are used, what the status of those funds are, what exactly those funds are for, it makes you wonder, what other types of transactions, or are there other types of irregularity happening behind the scenes?”