MANILA – Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez on Wednesday said it was premature to say the Commission on Audit’s (COA) report on deficiencies in the Department of Health’s (DOH) PHP67.32 billion allocation for the Covid-19 pandemic response destroyed the agency's reputation and morale.
During the virtual Ugnayan sa Batasan media forum, Rodriguez said the COA report being complained by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III does not contain conclusions, but mere findings that were still “subject to explanation by the DOH” within 60 days from receipt of the report.
“There is no judgment yet here. There is no statement from COA that there is corruption in the PHP67-billion deficiencies so it is premature to say that it will destroy the [reputation of] DOH and the employees,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriquez said Duque should not turn his ire on COA because the audit body was just doing its job as mandated by the Constitution.
“The COA has the constitutional duty to come out with the annual audit report of all agencies in the departments of the government. That is their mandate,” he said.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, lauded Speaker Lord Allan Velasco for authorizing the congressional inquiry on the COA findings as part of the oversight function of Congress.
He noted that while this is a problem between an independent constitutional commission and the executive department, Congress has an oversight function to look at what can be legislated and oversee whether public funds are properly spent.
“I really laud Speaker Velasco in authorizing our Chair of the Committee on Public Accounts Bonito Singson to have a hearing on this immediately because the people and Congress cannot wait 60 days until they (DOH) will submit to COA,” Rodriguez said.
During a House hearing on the COA report, Duque said he and other health officials have been losing sleep as COA's 2020 audit report regarding the supposed deficiencies in managing the pandemic funds brought down the agency's morale.
He said the DOH was not even given the chance to submit a rejoinder to the audit report that was based on preliminary observations.
“Winarak na ninyo kami eh, winarak na ninyo ang dangal ng DOH. Winarak ninyo ang lahat ng mga kasama ko dito, hindi kami makaharap sa mga tao dahil lahat ang dami-daming sinasabi, ang dami-daming paratang. Wala pa rin akong tulog, ilang gabi na po ito (You've damaged us. You've destroyed DOH's dignity. You've damaged every one of us here and we cannot face the people because of several accusations. I haven't had enough sleep yet for days),” he said.
He said COA should consider the fact that the DOH is not operating under normal circumstances, but rather in a state of public health emergency.
President Rodrigo Duterte attributed the deficiencies in the DOH’s allocation for Covid-19 response efforts in 2020 to “incomplete paperwork.” (PNA)