Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon castigated the Department of Health for not spending some P24 billion that could have been used to bolster the government’s response to COVID-19 in 2020.

He said the “deficiencies” were flagged by the Commission on Audit which looked into DOH use of the P67.32 billion in pandemic funds at a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee probe.

“It appears to me that the DOH tried to mask its huge unobligation rate and its inefficiency by transferring P42 billion to the procurement service of the Department of Budget and Management. In effect, this fund transfer minimized, on paper, the DOH’s underspending of COVID-19 funds,” said Drilon.

 “These transfers raise red flags as these are unaccounted or unliquidated transfers. These are most susceptible to corruption as they easily become invisible.”

Drilon said almost P12 billion from the P42 billion “parked” by the DOH at the PS-DBM is still unutilized. This is in addition to the P11.98 billion allotment flagged by COA as unobligated.

 The health department therefore underspent by 31.17% or P24 billion of its total P77 billion COVID-19 funds for 2020 according to Drilon. “Is it criminal to underspend in the face of a pandemic? How many oxygen tanks can be bought for P24 billion? How many frontliners can be given an increase in their special risk allowance? How many PPEs and test kits can we buy for P24 billion?” said Drilon.