MANILA – The 2022 findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) on the procurement of family food packs (FFPs) for Typhoon Odette victims have been rectified, a Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) official said on Thursday.
DSWD spokesperson, Assistant Secretary Romel Lopez, said the agency’s PHP173.8-million supply contract for FFPs in the DSWD Caraga Regional Office (FO) was done through emergency procurement due to the onslaught of Typhoon Odette in December 2021.
“It must be noted that the supplier is engaged in the food business and has been providing services for years, notably in the provision of family food packs, raw materials and goods for the supplementary feeding program in the Caraga Region,” he said in response to the COA finding that “the unqualified supplier was found not engaged in the trade of food products.”
In the 2022 COA report on the DSWD, state auditors noted that the Caraga Regional Office awarded 93 percent of the contract to Bodequita Enterprises & Services, the supplier of FFPs to the DSWD field office.
“The concerned supplier has already submitted their BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) certificate of registration reflecting their line of business, which allows them to engage in food supplies and pre-packed family food packs. The document was submitted to the audit team last March (2023),” Lopez said.
He said the Caraga FO’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) has assured the Central Office that “all succeeding bidding projects will require the prospective bidders to submit and attach their BIR certificate of registration for further evaluation.”
On the issue of poor rice quality, Lopez said the DSWD Zamboanga Peninsula FO has been doing corrective measures on the COA findings that the distributed relief goods in the region were not halal-certified and of low quality.
COA also found that a brand of canned tuna appeared to be an imitation product and that the six kilos of rice included in the FFPs appeared to be of poor quality.
“The DSWD Management has given a directive to all regional offices that rice of poor quality should not be packed and shall be immediately replaced with good quality rice. Moreover, the Central Office has issued a memorandum to consider putting the ‘Halal Certified’ sticker and list of the goods included in the family food packs,” Lopez said.
He said based on the DSWD records, the previous DSWD leadership has addressed the issue by returning the questioned rice to the National Food Authority (NFA) last January 2022 due to discolored grain with quality not fit for human consumption.
Lopez said as per the current administration’s policy, the DSWD’s disaster response cluster has been working on ways to improve its relief distribution and mechanism, which calls for the immediate replacement of compromised relief items by the suppliers.
“With the Buong Bansa Handa program, we hope to improve our supply chain in a timely and efficient manner utilizing both government and private supply channels,” Lopez said.
Guidelines on budget parameters
DSWD Secretary Rex Gatchalian has issued a memorandum, reiterating the COA’s guidelines on budget parameters for the conduct of workshops, seminars, training and other official activities.
The memorandum was the result of the agreement reached during the COA exit conference last June 6, specifically on the audit observation on “the incurrence of irregular, unnecessary, and extravagant expenditure” of the Department’s Offices, Bureaus, Services, and Units (OBSUs) and FOs.
“Such practices not only undermine our commitment to fiscal responsibility but also hinder our ability to effectively utilize our resources for the interest of the DSWD beneficiaries,” Gatchalian said in the memorandum.
The DSWD memo was in response to the COA finding that a number of regional offices of the DSWD spent a total of PHP3.059 million for meals and hotel accommodations which were deemed “irregular and unnecessary”.
According to the COA report, the DSWD Field Offices in Calabarzon and Mimaropa spent PHP1.362 million and PHP267,589, respectively, on meals and snacks during meetings of staff and employees.
In Davao Region, the DSWD Field Office spent PHP1.429 million for food and hotel accommodations for training and seminars in “expensive and luxurious hotels and resorts” despite the availability of other venues with lower rates.
To address these issues, Gatchalian issued the “approved guidelines on budget parameters for the fiscal year 2023 pertaining to the conduct of workshops, seminars, trainings, conferences, and other official activities.”
“Strict compliance with these guidelines is enjoined. These guidelines shall remain in effect until a new set of guidelines is issued,” Gatchalian said.
He also directed all OBSUs and FOs to familiarize themselves with the COA Circular No. 2012-003, also known as the “Updated Guidelines for the Prevention and Disallowance of Irregular, Unnecessary, Excessive, Extravagant and Unconscionable Expenditures.”
“Let us show our commitment to upholding fiscal discipline and transparency, ensuring that our financial resources are utilized judiciously to achieve the Department’s goals and serve our beneficiaries effectively,” he said. (PNA)