MANILA, Philippines – Hundreds of millions of pesos in funds intended for the relief and rehabilitation of disaster victims did not reach them in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 because government offices used them up for operations or kept them in banks.
This was the finding of the state auditors in a report on how the quick response funds (QRF) of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and the donations received by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) were utilized.
In its assessment report, the Commission on Audit (COA) said OCD had a total of P692.77 million in available QRF for 2013, while the NDRRMC – which is administered by the OCD – had received a total of P48.82 million in donations for the typhoon victims.
However, not a single centavo of these amounts has so far reached the typhoon victims, according to COA.
The QRF should serve as a “stand-by to be used for relief and rehabilitation programs in order that the situation and living conditions of people living in communities or areas stricken by calamities, epidemics, crises, and catastrophes occurring during the year may be normalized as quickly as possible.”
Based on the COA report, at least 17% of the total QRF for 2013, or P121.18 million, was spent on Yolanda-related operations.
COA identified the items on which the P121.18 million was spent:
Cash advances for operational requirements of the NDRRMC Operations Center
Cash advances for operational requirements of ROVIII Operations Center
Office supplies 56,445.00
Fund transfer to AFP for petroleum, oil and lubricant (POL) reserve for disaster operations, subject to liquidation
Various groceries and medicines intended for daily subsistence of duty personnel at Command Center and RDRRMC VIII Operations Center
TOTAL P 121,182,550
The biggest disbursement was for “petroleum, oil and lubricants (POL),” which amounted to 98% of the total amount spent by OCD for its Yolanda-related operations.
OCD said the amount was transferred to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reportedly as “reserve for disaster operations” and is subject to liquidation.
There were various groceries and medical supplies purchased, but they were allotted for OCD-NDRRMC personnel. Also, these items remained unused as of March 5, 2014, after NDRRMC’s activities in Yolanda-hit areas had ended. Many of the supplies were nearing expiry dates, according to COA.
“[T]he funds were spent for the requirements of the Operations Centers and POL, while nothing was reported for the basic subsistence needs of calamity victims notwithstanding the guidelines and other issuances on the matter,” said the report.
COA mentioned a study by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) which shows that OCD was able to fully utilize its QRF prior to 2012. But since 2012, restrictions on the use of funds affected how the fund was utilized.
“Before 2012, QRF can be used for pre-disaster activities, but starting 2012, QRF was designated as standby fund, thus, it can only be used at the onset of disasters or for response activities,” COA said.
COA also noted that local and foreign cash donations have not been utilized by the NDRRMC.
“The donations remained intact with the depository bank. There were no donations to date out of the donations received,” COA said.
This is despite NDCC Memorandum Order 13, signed in 1998, which states that families affected by disasters were supposed to receive P10,000 cash assistance for each dead relative and P5,000 for those injured subject to submission of required documents including medical or death certificates.
“It will be noted that under this Memorandum Order, financial assistance can only be availed if claims are filed at the RDCC supported by the documents enumerated above. However, in case of emergencies, the production alone of the documentary requirements would be very cumbersome for the victims, thus, provision of assistance takes some time,” COA said.
COA added that this has been “depriving the disaster/calamity victims of timely assistance in their lowliest times and defeating the purpose of the donations.” –