By Xy Aldrae Murillo

The Commission on Audit (COA) called out the Department of Health (DOH) for having undisbursed and unobligated funds amounting to around P30 billion for the COVID-19 response.

Photo Courtesy by DOH / Rappler

In a 2021 COA report released on August 16, state auditors revealed that P97.897 billion of the COVID-19 funds were obligated, while P74.2 billion were disbursed.

DOH received a P104.546 billion purse for COVID-19-related programs and activities, in which COA discovered an unobligated P6.648 billion and an undisbursed P23.656 billion.

According to state auditors, the Centers for Health Development (CHDs) and DOH operational units (OUs) also failed to utilize sub-allotments worth P2.481 billion.

“The substantial unobligated sub-allotments indicate that releases of funds made by the DOH may not be based on the needs of the CHDs and OUs or without carefully considering their absorptive capacities,” the COA said.

“Although the utilization of COVID-19 funds posted a high AUI of 93.64 percent, such amount of unobligated allotment is considered substantial enough to affect the level of the DOH’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” it added.

Consequently, state auditors advised DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire to direct leaders of the agency’s programs, CHDs, and OUs to develop a documented plan to resolve and reinforce the effective use of funds and project implementation.

In response, Vergeire acknowledged that the agency had been given 60 days to respond to the issues after receiving the audit report on July 29.

Vergeire further acknowledged that the government is stepping up immunization efforts through its PinasLakas campaign because fewer individuals are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine this year.

Unobligated funds refer to the money that is not committed to a contract at the end of a fiscal year, while undisbursed funds are funds that the creditor has pledged but that the borrower hasn't yet used.

Edited by Juliana Mondoyo