The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has cited a number of reasons why it failed to fully disburse its 2020 funds, with COVID-19 pandemic as its main reason, after some senators expressed serious concern about its over P83 billion in unspent funds.
“The COVID-19 pandemic; imposed Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases guidelines; mobility challenges; constraints on manpower/resources of LGUs and other government agencies; Commission on Audit rules; Memorandum of Agreement commitments; counter-checking measures to ensure transparency/accountability; re-bidding difficulties, logistic problems; and community health risks as a result of the pandemic plus the series of back-to-back typhoons (Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses) have hampered and adversely affected the implementation of various DSWD programs, activities and services,” it said in a statement on Wednesday night.
The DSWD has confirmed that its total funds on hand from its fiscal year 2020 budget, inclusive of the balance from 2019 amounts to P83.24 billion.
It noted that such funds “have been programmed for the implementation of various programs, activities, and projects for the remaining months of this year.
During the Senate’s plenary budget debates on Nov. 17, Senator Imee Marcos, who defended the agency’s 2021 budget, bared that the agency has over P83 billion in unexpended funds.
“The Department assures the public that it is exerting its best efforts to expedite the utilization of the funds for their intended purpose within the fiscal year,” the DSWD said in a statement.
“DSWD has painstakingly taken into consideration the necessary procedures and provisions of the law, to ensure that a lawful and judicious spending of government resources, reaches its intended rightful beneficiaries,” it added.
The DSWD said of the P83 billion earmarked for various PAPs, P48.3 billion has been allocated for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
Of the amount, P40 billion “shall be used for the cash grants, fixed and mandatory expenses, and program operational costs, which shall be utilized from now until year-end,” it said.
The agency explained that given the COVID-19 pandemic that forced schools to shut down, the fund earmarked for educational grants amounting to P7.69 billion has not been spent.
“DSWD requested Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the modification of the P7.69 billion from the 4Ps to be converted into Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) in order for it to be given as an educational assistance, still for the same intended Pantawid beneficiaries,” it said.
The DSWD noted that some P2.1 billion have been earmarked for the Supplementary Feeding Program for Children, and have been downloaded to Field Offices and local government units.
“However, there is a procurement issue concern of the engaged Regional Directors due to economic inactivity,” it said.
“In addition, there is a problem with the transfer of funds due to COVID-19; a lack of participation of interested suppliers for the rebidding; and scarcity of suppliers on the ground that can deliver the requirements for the intended beneficiaries,” it added.
The Department said it allotted P2.6 billion for Sustainable Livelihood Program and that it received P2.4B Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) dated October 22, 2020 on October 30, 2020.
Of the P2.4 billion, P1.2 billion was immediately downloaded to FOs, it said.
The DSWD also assured the public that the P3.9 billion earmarked for Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens will be fully obligated, as of yearend.
The Department also noted that due to the health crisis, the full disbursement of the P13.7 billion Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation has been affected. “Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the threat to the health of the special disbursing officers, local social welfare and development officers, and granular lockdowns on the ground due to the rising positive cases, this program has encountered delays despite the use of electronic payment systems,” it said.
The DSWD said for the implementation of Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, the agency has yet to disburse some P5.14 billion.
“Payouts are ongoing in the National Capital Region and others. Any excess obligation shall be reverted back to DSWD for the AICS program,” it said.
“For Bayanihan 2, P6 billion was allotted and there are ongoing implementation in FOs VII (Central Visayas), X (Northern Mindanao), Caraga and NCR, as of November 17, 2020,” the DSWD said.
It also explained that the agency has remaining balance of continuing funds from fiscal year 2019 amounting to P1.5 billion “due to a delay in the approval and release of the 2019 General Appropriations Act, coupled with the problems and difficulties from the ensuing COVID-19 pandemic.”
“The Department wishes to emphasize that these are all programmed funds indicated in the General Appropriations Act, which can only be modified upon receiving an approval from the DBM,” the DSWD said.