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 P67.32 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.
“The President’s instruction is for the DOH to answer COA’s observations,” Roque said partly in Filipino in a Palace press briefing.
He assured that Duterte will spare no one in his administration’s fight against corruption.
“The President will not be exempting anyone. There are no sacred cows in this administration,” he said partly in Filipino.
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.
“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 in Filipino.
Roque described the COA audit observations as “premature”, but noted that Duterte is eager to read the DOH’s explanation.
“ The DOH has to submit its response, so let’s wait for it. The President is keen to read the answers because these are serious observations against the DOH,” he added partly in Filipino.
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.
“We are not belittling this observation. These are serious observation and we expect a comprehensive and clear explanation,” he said in Filipino.
Roque also maintained that Duterte expects all concerned agencies to be transparent in the utilization of Covid-19 funds.
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 P11.89 in funds for the Covid-19 measures have not been obligated and donations-in-kind estimated at P1.405 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.