President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Monday asked the Commission on Audit (COA) to stop flagging government agencies and publishing reports while documents are still being processed, arguing they create a perception of corruption and unfairly putting people in bad light.
The President was responding to a COA report that noted “deficiencies” on the Department of Health’s (DOH) handling of P67.3 billion COVID-19 funds.
In his public address, President Duterte said publishing unresolved audit reports gives people the impression that there is corruption even when there’s none.
“You know that when you flag, there is already a taint of corruption by perception,” President Duterte told COA. “You make a report. Do not flag and do not publish it because it will condemn the agency or the person that you are flagging.”
To address the COVID-19 crisis, the President said he had previously ordered various government agencies to make emergency procurements or loans to equip facilities, especially the DOH, with everything they need to fight the pandemic.
The country, he said, is in the middle on a health emergency and it’s a matter of life or death.
“So you have to understand and give it a little elbowroom to move, make emergency purchase, mag-utang,” he said, adding COA’s actions make it difficult for the government to defeat COVID-19 as its critics seize the opportunity to malign the administration.
Publicizing reports alleging corruption “is not fair to the people” who are working hard to serve the republic, he stressed, noting such reports become “gospel truth” once they are released to the public.
“Huwag kayong maniwala ng ganoon. Ako mismo Presidente, ako mismo nangako na I will protect you people, it includes your money. Do you think papayag ako na may isa dito sa Cabinet member magnakaw maski P1,000? You really think that I would allow it?” the President said.
Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega, who was also present in the meeting, said the health department’s deficiencies in procurement, documents and procedures have already been partially resolved with no findings of lost funds or corruption, citing a report from COA.
Vega said DOH’s transfers to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) for the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE), COVID-19 testing kits, medical supplies, and other hospital equipment are not covered by a Memorandum of Agreement, thus it was agreed by PS-DBM that non-attachment of MOA on these purchases has legal basis considering the items procured are considered commonly used supplies.
To date, a total of P31 billion worth of commodities have been reported by DBM as delivered, said Vega.
Further, the health official said 83 percent of the unobligated amount of P11.8 billion from Bayanihan 1 and 2 including government procurement budget and foreign loans, have been utilized as of June this year.
A huge chunk of the funds were used to pay for benefits of health workers, salaries of emergency hired health workers, as well as procurement of medicine and medical supplies during the pandemic. The remaining P510 million is valid for utilization until December this year, he said.
Deficiencies in procurement, documents, and procedures have also already been partially resolved, Vega explained, noting the Central Office’s Procurement Service already addressed the P2.48 billion deficiencies mentioned by COA.
For the remaining P2.52 billion, the health undersecretary said the DOH operating units concerned have been given directives to comply “immediately” with the COA recommendations.
Government hospitals that received parts of the P1.4 billion worth donations weren’t able to submit right away a summary report list of donations, but have already provided COA with the required listings, he added. PND