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State auditors flag P60 million in SAP payouts to unqualified beneficiaries in Cebu, but LGUs say they were pressed for time

By Max Limpag Published Jun 30, 2021 11:56 am

Government auditors flagged P60 million in ineligible Social Amelioration Program (SAP) releases to 9,887 unqualified beneficiaries in the towns of Cebu, mandating local government officials to recover the full amount. 

Local government units, however, said there was too little time given to them to verify the list and complete the disbursements. Some said the guidelines for the Emergency Subsidy Program (ESP) distribution under SAP only came after the funds had already been disbursed. Several town officials requested for reconsideration saying those who received payouts were in need. 

The Badian Social Welfare and Development Office (SWDO), for example, told auditors about their difficulty not just in the validation of names but also in the distribution of SAP payouts.

Of Cebu province’s 44 towns, 34 municipalities were recorded as having released SAP payments to ineligible beneficiaries.

“Although it was determined that some of the beneficiaries are ineligible to receive the SAP, there is a difficulty in the distribution as some of the recipients insisted that they were eligible to the point that they were already harassing the MSWD officer and its staff,” the audit report on Badian said.

When asked to send demand letters to the 653 ineligible beneficiaries to recover the P3.9 million released to them, Municipal SWDO Arlene R. Lucero expressed her reluctance to do so, citing harassment both in person and on social media.

The findings are contained in the annual audit reports on the 2020 finances of government offices by the Commission on Audit, which are published on its website. Of Cebu province’s 44 towns, 34 municipalities were recorded as having released SAP payments to ineligible beneficiaries.

Topping the list is the town of Balamban with 1,180 deemed ineligible for SAP receiving a total of P7.08 million. The town is appealing to the DSWD regional office but promised to send out demand letters after a review of the list of recipients. 

Daanbantayan told auditors that they will not send demand letters to ineligible beneficiaries saying 'such a prevalent problem should be addressed regionwide.'

Daanbantayan, a town on the northern tip of Cebu, came next with 862 ineligible beneficiaries receiving a total of P5.17 million. The town said they finished distributing SAP funds on April 30, 2020. The guidelines for distribution from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), however, were only received on May 5, 2020.

Daanbantayan told auditors that they will not send demand letters to ineligible beneficiaries saying “such prevalent (a) problem should be addressed regionwide.”

“Although ineligible, the Municipality believes that these individuals are also striving to survive the pandemic because these individuals are basically still poor,” the auditors reported.

The short time to verify the names and complete the disbursement was a common reply to audit observations of ineligible SAP beneficiaries in audit findings on Cebu towns.

Moalboal, a tourism destination in southern Cebu that is known for its diving, told auditors they did not validate the list of SAP beneficiaries during the first payout. The town’s MSWDO told auditors that they were only given 10 days from receipt of the SAP funds to complete the distribution. The town validated names on the list for the second tranche distribution.
 
Moalboal received ₱22,626,000 for its 15 barangays. After they conducted validation, 822 beneficiaries were found ineligible. They received ₱4,932,000. COA said in its recommendations that the municipality should send these 822 people demand letters to refund the amount that they received.

Minglanilla, meanwhile, was reported to have released ₱240,000 in SAP payments to barangay officials as well as regular and job order employees of the municipal government, which are ineligible for the benefit. Minglanilla was also told to recover P8.9 million it released as hazard pay to barangay officials and municipal contract of service (CO) and job order (JO) workers. COA said they are not qualified to receive hazard pay from the municipal government.

Auditors also flagged purchases that exceeded the price ceiling set by the Department of Health. These included purchases of thermal scanners and medical equipment. The aggregate amount over the price ceiling totaled P4.6 million in all towns. Officials, however, said the emergency purchases were down during the pandemic and prices of items were high. Among those flagged is Aloguinsan’s purchase of 20 non-contact thermometers at P9,500 each when DOH set a ceiling of P3,400 per item.

Another common audit observation is the failure to comply with a warranty clause for emergency procurement under the Bayanihan Act. Auditors said the contracts are required to have “a warranty clause where the supplier, distributor, manufacturer, or contractor warrants that, for the period stipulated covering the procurement at hand, the Goods or Infrastructure Projects to be delivered or implemented shall be free from defects and conform to quality standards and technical specifications of the said contract.”

Many LGUs had procurement contracts without such a clause, including Minglanilla town with P143,238,881.67 worth of agreements without such a stipulation. Other towns with similar findings include San Fernando, with contracts totaling P27,937,061.60 without such a clause, Borbon, P21,711,434; San Francisco, P22,774,400.00; Santa Fe, P18,127,292.93; Moalboal,  P16,259,617.93, among many LGUs. The LGUs told editors that they would comply with the requirement.

(Banner photo: Residents in the southern Cebu tourism town of Moalboal receive their Social Amelioration Program (SAP) payouts. Photo from DSWD 7 Facebook Page)