Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima urged Congress to investigate the “very concerning” findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) on the Department of Health’s (DOH) mismanagement of the budget for COVID-19 response, to ensure that those responsible be held accountable.
In a Senate Resolution filed last Aug. 17, De Lima underscored the need to look into the COA’s findings to address recurrent issues that plagued DOH’s services, as well as the persistent lapses that give rise to wastage even amidst times of scarcity and shortage.
“The lack of prudence and diligence on the part of the DOH should not be tolerated. Its failure to judiciously and meticulously plan and respond to the health needs of the country is unacceptable and warrants a thorough investigation to determine who are responsible,” she said.
The 2020 report of the COA on the DOH revealed that of the total appropriation of approximately ₱205.621 billion, pursuant to Republic Act No. 11465 or the General Appropriations Act for FY 2020, and of the total allotments received amounting to ₱200.855 billion, the DOH has unreleased appropriation, unobligated allotment, and unpaid obligation amounting to ₱4.765 billion, ₱24.641 billion and ₱34. 496 billion, respectively.
De Lima noted that the same report likewise “exposed a very palpable repetition of what has already been previously pointed out by COA’s findings in 2019.”
Notably, the state auditors again divulged that drugs, medicines, and other types of inventories with a total value of ₱95,675,058.98 were nearly expired or have expired due to “deficient procurement planning, poor distribution and monitoring systems, and identified weaknesses in internal controls.”
“This is not the first time that the DOH has been flagged by COA for its over-procurement and poor distribution of medicine,” she stressed.
In July 2019, COA said the DOH had ₱18.449 billion worth of medicine purchased from 2015 to 2018 yet to be distributed to government hospitals, health centers and other government treatment facilities.
The lady Senator from Bicol said the continued and persistent problems on the part of DOH that COA has reported undeniably shows its systemic failure to comply with relevant laws and rules.
“The DOH’s deliberate inaction on, and non-compliance with COA’s recommendations also reveal lack of concern and gross negligence,” she said.
“The fact that in the thick of waging a war against COVID-19 there are unused funds from 2020 means the DOH lacks a sense of urgency with the rising deaths and infections,” she added.
“Namamatay ang ating mga frontliner nang walang nakukuhang sapat na benepisyo, gaya na lamang ni Maria Theresa Cruz, isang nurse sa Cainta na namatay noong nakaraang taon dahil sa COVID-19, na di man lang natanggap ang katiting na P60 kada araw na hazard pay. Tapos mababalitaan natin ang ganitong kapabayaan at kawalang malasakit na bilyon-bilyong pondo ang hindi masinop na ginastos?” De Lima said.
De Lima maintained that the over-procurement and poor distribution of medicines and other medical supplies is a systemic problem within the DOH that has long crippled the health system thereby affecting the lives and safety of Filipinos.
“The DOH cannot justify these occurrences to lockdowns and other health protocols, to which any responsive government agency should have already adjusted and adapted”, she said.
In October 2020, De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 539 directing the appropriate Senate committee to look into the COA report showing ₱2.2 billion worth of expired or overstocked drugs, medicines, and other supplies in the inventory of the DOH. (30)