COA calls out DSWD for undistributed, rotting Typhoon Ulysses donations

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 15) — The Commission on Audit (COA) found that thousands of in-kind donations for victims of Typhoon Ulysses in November 2020 remain undistributed, with some already expired and “destroyed by rats.”

In its 2021 annual audit report on the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), COA revealed that the department’s Field Office II in the Cagayan Valley region received a total of 126,172 in-kind donations from various donors from late 2020 until early 2021.

The donations, which included food and non-food items, were intended for the victims of the typhoon.

RELATED: Ulysses death toll rises to 73 

Upon COA’s inspection, however, it was discovered that 21,824 of the donations remained undistributed as of yearend 2021. It added that some were found expired, rotting, and destroyed by rats.

“During the inspection, we observed that 223 sachets of milk/choco powder in particular were already expired and destroyed by rats while 1,434 bottles/tablets of medicines are about to expire in April 2022. For canned goods, though not yet expired, they were exposed to rotting and damage,” read the audit report released July 15.

But the deterioration and damage due to rats among the items were not the only issue, after COA also caught lapses in the distribution of 38,796 donated goods.

The audit body pointed out that the Regional Resource Operation Section (RROS) distributed 30,656 non-food items and 8,140 food items without proof of issuance or distribution to recipients and proof of conversion to family food packs, which violates the Government Accounting Manual.

Additionally, COA said the RROS also failed to submit reports of in-kind donations to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) through the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD).

The RROS explained that due to the overwhelming number of donations, the receipt and release of funds were no longer tracked or documented, according to COA.

“Moreover, the RROS head was not aware that submission of reports to proper authority is required,” COA said, while refuting that such issue on donations was already reported in the prior year’s audit of COVID-19 funds, yet “the concerned staff still failed to comply.”

The state auditors also observed that 16,602 of the in-kind donations were given to three centers of the DSWD — the Reception and Study Center for Children, the Regional Haven for Women and Girls, and the Cagayan Valley Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth.

It noted that the items taken from the private donations were intended to replenish the centers’ regular consumption supplies, which meant that the provisions should have come from DSWD funds.

“The RROS head commented that it’s the DRMD (Disaster Response and Management Division) Chief who decides where to issue the balances of in-kind donations, and he has no control over their options of recipients,” said COA in its report.

The commission stated that relief products did not reach typhoon victims as planned by donors due to DSWD’s “deficiencies,” which “deprived the intended beneficiaries of the aid that they should have received at the time they need it as well as the donors who entrusted their donations to the agency.”

“Also, the transparency and accountability in the use of aid/donations was significantly affected especially that this has become an issue of considerable importance for donors and the public,” COA stressed.

The audit body mentioned that the DSWD has agreed to instruct regional directors to strictly comply with COA Circular Nos. 2014-002 and 2020-009 on proper accounting, reporting, and distribution of donations.

The DRMD chief also agreed to stop distributing in-kind donations to the three centers of the DSWD and release it immediately to the intended beneficiaries.

Sec. Tulfo's DSWD guarantees donations will reach beneficiaries

When asked regarding the issue, the DSWD under the present administration assured that all donations handed to the agency will be distributed to the intended beneficiaries.

“Yung mga problema doon sa previous admin, hindi na kami nagde-dwell diyan [We no longer dwell on the problems of the previous administration],” Assistant Secretary Rommel Lopez said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

“Basta we want to assure the public on our part dito sa DSWD ngayon, under (Secretary Erwin Tulfo’s) term, we’ll make sure na lahat mabilis, lahat maiksi yung proseso, at lahat ay maaabutan ng tulong.”

[Translation: We just want to assure the public that under the present DSWD, under (Secretary Erwin Tulfo’s) term, we'll make sure the distribution process would be speedy and short, and aid will reach all the intended beneficiaries.]