President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Department of Health (DOH) to explain the reported “deficiencies” found by the Commission on Audit (COA) in the agency’s handling of PHP67.32 billion in Covid-19 funds in 2020, Malacañang said on Thursday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte is “withholding judgment” until after the DOH submits an explanation on the questionable handling of funds and COA releases its final audit report.
“Ang instruction ng Presidente sagutin mabuti ang mga observation ng COA (The President’s instruction is for the DOH to answer COA’s observations),” Roque said in a Palace press briefing.
He assured that Duterte will spare no one in his administration’s fight against corruption.
“Ang Presidente po walang sinasanto (The President will not be exempting anyone). There are no sacred cows in this administration,” he said.
Roque acknowledged that these were “serious” audit observations coming from a constitutional body like COA and not merely allegations hurled by the President’s critics.
However, he said Duterte recognizes that some issues flagged by COA fail to be sustained after an agency provides an acceptable explanation on the audit observations.
“Ang Presidente po bilang abugado at bilang naging alkalde, alam po niya na hindi lahat nung mga paratang o observation ay nasu-sustain after sumagot ang ahensya. Pero alam din po niya na after sumagot ang ahensiya at nagkaroon ng final observation ang COA, e mabigat po ‘yun dahil ‘yan po ang pagbabasehan ng pagsasampa ng kaso (The President as a lawyer and former mayor knows that not all observations are sustained after an agency submits its response. But he also knows that after COA releases its final observation, it will be serious because that will be the basis of filing charges),” he said.
Roque described the COA audit observations as “premature”, but noted that Duterte is eager to read the DOH’s explanation.
“Ngayon po, premature pa po ah. Sasagot pa lang po ang DOH, antayin po natin ang sagot (Now, it’s still premature. The DOH has to submit its response, so let’s wait for it). The President is keen to read the answers dahil medyo mabigat po ang mga obserbasyon ng DOH (because these are serious observations against the DOH),” he added.
While he insisted that it is best to wait for the DOH’s response, he denied that the Palace was downplaying the seriousness of COA’s audit observations.
“Hindi po namin minamaliit ang obserbasyon. Napakabigat na mga obserbasyon po ito at inaasahan namin ang komprehensibo at malinaw na kasagutan [from the DOH] (We are not belittling this observation. These are serious observation and we expect a comprehensive and clear explanation),” he said.
Roque also maintained that Duterte expects all concerned agencies to be transparent in the utilization of Covid-19 funds.
“Ang nais po mangyari ng ating Presidente, naglaan po tayo ng bilyon-bilyon para sa ating Covid response at ang inaasahan niya lahat po ‘yan ay magamit para mapakinabangan ng taong-bayan. Antayin po natin ang mga kasagutan ng DOH (We allocated billions for our Covid response and the President expects them to be used for the benefit of the people. Let’s wait for the DOH’s answer),” he said.
In its 2020 Annual Audit Report released on Wednesday, the COA said the deficiencies were “mainly caused by non-compliance to pertinent laws, rules, and regulations” by the DOH.
The COA also disclosed that at least PHP11.89 billion in funds for the Covid-19 measures have not been obligated and donations-in-kind estimated at PHP1.405 billion have not been properly documented by the DOH.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, in a statement, said the DOH is currently addressing the deficiencies reported by COA.
“The flagged issues are currently being addressed by DOH. Rest assured, that the funds allotted to the DOH are all spent for the procurement of test kits, PPEs (personal protective equipment), payment of HCWs (healthcare workers) benefits, salaries of HRH (human resource for health), among others,” Duque said.
Source: Philippines News Agency