The Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) for alleged failure to complete some coronavirus quarantine and isolation facilities in various provinces in the country, including those in Palawan.

The audit commission chastised the OCD for transferring over P700 million to 24 local government units (LGUs) in 2021 for pandemic-related structures such as quarantine and isolation facilities that were reportedly never completed.

Among the LGUs it mentioned were Taytay, which had zero accomplishment, and Magsaysay town, which only registered an accomplishment of 10 percent in completing the infrastructures. Taytay received over P24 million and Magsaysay 12 million from the OCD.

In a report by the state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA), however, the OCD explained Wednesday that it has complied with all the observations and recommendations by the COA for 2021.

“In the said report, the COA Resident Auditor gave OCD an ‘Unmodified Opinion’ on the fairness of the presentation of the financial statements of OCD. An Unmodified Opinion means that OCD strictly adheres to all relevant and applicable accounting and auditing rules and regulations,” the agency said in a statement.

The agency said what was reported was old information from December and is no longer up-to-date.

OCD said it is making the clarification following reports that it was “flagged” by the state audit body over unfinished coronavirus disease facilities last year as well as the use of quick response funds (QRFs).

“As of June 21, 2022, 15 facility construction projects have already been completed. These are the projects of the Municipality of Jala-Jala, Municipality of Corcuera, Romblon, Municipality of Sofronio Española, Palawan, Municipality of Cagayancillo, Palawan, Municipality of Cuyo, Palawan, Municipality of Concepcion, Iloilo, Malaybalay City, Province of Bukidnon, Valencia City, Province of Bukidnon, City Government of Kidapawan, Cotabato, Provincial Government of Sultan Kudarat, Municipality of Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, Municipality of Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat, Municipality of Surallah, Province of South Cotabato, Municipality of Midsayap, Province of Cotabato, and Koronadal, South Cotabato,” the OCD said.

The state of facility construction in Magsaysay, Palawan is currently 85 percent complete, while Taytay, Palawan is 90 percent complete, OCD added.

The status of the other constructions are: Santa Cruz, Marinduque is at 97 percent, Torrijos, Marinduque at 99 percent, Libacao, Aklan at 47 percent, Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat at 90 percent, and Municipality of Malungon, Sarangani at 96 percent.

“To sum, the total fund provided by OCD for LGU (local government unit) facility construction/conversion projects and support to LGU isolation facilities is PHP 769,529,293.39, with PHP 605,229,143.58 or 79 percent fully utilized/obligated and PHP 164,300,149.81 or 21 percent unutilized/ reverted to the National Treasury,” it added.

The OCD said it considers the situation of the LGU recipients of the funds given the nuances of the COVID-19 situation in their localities which have affected project implementation.

Such situations include the occurrence of surges in Covid-19 cases and varying community quarantine classification which affected procurement processes and project timelines, issues on the location of the facility which led to the selection of another project site, compliance to mandated revision of plans in compliance to Department of Health directives and some projects starting during the height of the rainy season which affected construction schedules.

The OCD also assured observance of due diligence in communicating to the respective LGUs to report the status of the projects as well as the submission of all necessary liquidation instruments.

It also added that QRFs are being properly used to sustain operations during disasters including the pandemic, which cover operational expenses for isolation facilities such as food for patients and workers, janitorial and housekeeping services, laundry, accommodation for the frontline health staff manning the facilities as well as logistics support during disaster operations.

“The use of the funds are demand driven, so with the decreasing number of Covid-19 cases, the use of funds would also go down. OCD continues to capacitate both the central and regional offices on the proper observance of procurement processes and the handling of funds in keeping with the prevailing accounting rules and regulations,” it added.

The agency has been working closely with COA during the entire pandemic period to ensure proper spending of public funds. (with a report from Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)