• Fri. Sep 16th, 2022

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Grace Poe on Thursday asked the Senate to investigate the deficiencies in the use of the Health department’s P67.32 billion funds intended for the country’s COVID-19 response.

Aug 12, 2021

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Grace Poe on Thursday asked the Senate to investigate the deficiencies in the use of the Health department’s P67.32 billion funds intended for the country’s COVID-19 response.
Poe has filed a resolution to launch a Senate probe after the Commission on Audit flagged the Department of Health’s utilization of the COVID-19 funds, saying the deficiencies were mainly caused by non-compliance with laws, rules, and regulations.
Meanwhile, Drilon, in a statement, said the senators should scrutinized DOH’s handling of funds as the COA’s observations are “alarming and disturbing.”
“It is imperative that we examine closely the DOH’s use of billions of pesos in COVID-19 response funds given the findings of the COA and the corruption allegations that hounded the agency’s procurement of various COVID-19 equipment and supplies,” Drilon said.
The minority leader noted previous graft allegations involving the purchase of PPEs and test kits, which he said, remain to be “unanswered and unsolved.”
Both Poe and Drilon cited the COA findings on the procedural deficiencies in the procurement process, lack of documentation as well as lapses in implementation by the DOH of several projects involving at least P3.967 billion.
“This is where unscrupulous individuals or syndicates in the government dip their sticky fingers. We must examine this especially given the corruption allegations that involved the purchase of various COVID-19 equipment and supplies,” Drilon said.
“Who was involved in these purchases? Which agency made the procurement? Where are these people now? Are they still in the government?” he asked.
Poe, on the other hand, pointed out that these funds were given to strengthen DOH’s health resources amid the pandemic but “the implementation deficiencies denied our countrymen their right to health at a time when it is most needed.”
“These deficiencies prove to be counter-beneficial to the government’s efforts to curb the spread of the disease at a crucial time. Instead of being utilized to support and boost the country’s pandemic response, the funds remained idle or were not properly and immediately used where they should go,” she pointed out in her resolution.
Apart from this, both lawmakers questioned the P95.675 million worth of medicines and inventories that were expired or nearly expired due to deficient procurement planning, poor distribution and weakness in internal controls of the DOH.
Drilon and Poe also cited at least P1.225 billion worth of equipment procured under the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) that were undelivered, unutilized, and/or without calibration and preventive maintenance.
Apart from this, they mentioned several HFEP infrastructure projects amounting to P2.832 billion that were either idle, unutilized or with substantial delay in implementation, which subsequently exposed these properties to the risks of deterioration, loss, and wastage, and thus depriving the public of their benefits.
In a statement, Poe mentioned that there are moves to increase the DOH fund for COVID-19 response and recovery ahead of the upcoming 2022 budget deliberations.
She, however, warned that the Senate will scrutinize these findings reported by the COA.
“The DOH has a lot of explaining to do. We expect the Senate investigation will help correct these deficiencies, seek accountability and ensure future funds are better managed,” Poe said.
Earlier today, Senator Richard Gordon, who chairs the Senate blue ribbon committee, said he is not keen on investigating the DOH over the latest COA report on the COVID-19 funds.
He said the Health authorities will lose its focus on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.—AOL, GMA News