DSWD defends P83B unspent funds

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The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) on Thursday defended its unspent funds worth P83 billion, saying several factors affected the implementation of their programs, including the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, the DSWD explained that the P83 billion in unspent funds from its 2020 budget have been programmed for various programs, activities, and projects (PAPs) for the rest of the year.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic hampered the implementation of its projects, and further compounded by mobility challenges due to guidelines imposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases, and “constraints” on manpower and resources of local government units and other government agencies.

Aside from these factors, DSWD said Commission on Audit (COA) rules, Memorandum of Agreement commitments, counter-checking measures to ensure transparency and accountability; re-bidding difficulties, logistic problems; and community health risks due to the pandemic and recent typhoons also affected the department’s programs.

“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,” DSWD said in a statement.

The DSWD issued its explanation after senators flagged the department for its unspent funds from the previous budget and two Bayanihan laws, as millions of Filipinos reel from the economic impacts of the pandemic and previous typhoons.

The department also said it 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.”

In total, DSWD said its total funds on hand from its 2020 budget, inclusive of the balance from 2019, amounts to P83.42 billion.

“A remaining balance of continuing funds from the fiscal year 2019 in the amount of P1.5B exists 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 agency explained.

“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,” it added.

Breakdown of programs

According to DSWD, a total of P48.3 billion has been allotted for its Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). It said P40 billion of this amount shall be used for cash grants, fixed and mandatory expenses, and program operational costs “which shall be utilized from now until yearend.”

But since there were no physical school activities from August to September, the P7.69 billion in educational grants were not spent.

“DSWD requested Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the modification of the P7.69B 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,” the department explained.

Meanwhile, P2.1 billion has been alloted for the Supplementary Feeding Program for Children program. DSWD said the funds have been downloaded to Field Offices (FOs) and LGUs, but “there is a procurement issue concern of the engaged Regional Directors due to economic inactivity.”

It also cited problems on the transfer of funds due to COVID-19; lack of participation of interested suppliers for the rebidding; and scarcity of suppliers on the ground that can deliver the requirements for intended beneficiaries.

Another P2.6 billion, on the other hand, was alloted for the Sustainable Livelihood Program of the agency.

“The P2.4 billion SARO (Special Allotment Release Order) dated October 22, 2020 was received by DSWD on October 30, 2020. P1.2B out of the P2.4B was immediately downloaded to FOs,” DSWD said.

For Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens, P3.9 billion was allotted and the budget will be fully obligated as of yearend, according to the social welfare department.

DSWD also said P13.7 billion was allocated for its Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation program. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the threat to health of the disbursing officers, local social welfare and development officers, and granular lockdowns, the program has encountered delays despite the use of electronic payment systems.

DSWD has a remaining balance of P5.14 billion under Bayanihan 1 It said payouts are ongoing in the National Capital Region and other areas, and that any excess obligation shall be reverted back to the department for the AICS program.

Meanwhile for Bayanihan 2, P6 billion was allotted and there is ongoing implementation of projects for the budget in FOs in Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Caraga and NCR as of November 17.