ASEANEWS HEADLINE: MANILA – P1.3B for poor left unused – COA

About P1.3 billion set aside for cash grants for nearly two million beneficiaries were not claimed in 2017, an indication that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) failed in helping the “poorest of the poor,” or that the people the funds were intended for were not in dire need and should have been delisted, according to a Commission on Audit (COA) report.

“It bears emphasizing that the cash grants are benefits given to the poorest municipalities, homeless and indigenous people whose economic condition is equal to or below the provincial poverty threshold to augment their day-to-day expenses. It is very remarkable that the accounts have very significant unwithdrawn amounts,” the COA said in a 2017 audit report made public on its website on Friday.

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About P1.3 billion set aside for cash grants for nearly two million beneficiaries were not claimed in 2017, an indication that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) failed in helping the “poorest of the poor,” or that the people the funds were intended for were not in dire need and should have been delisted, according to a Commission on Audit (COA) report.

“It bears emphasizing that the cash grants are benefits given to the poorest municipalities, homeless and indigenous people whose economic condition is equal to or below the provincial poverty threshold to augment their day-to-day expenses. It is very remarkable that the accounts have very significant unwithdrawn amounts,” the COA said in a 2017 audit report made public on its website on Friday.

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4Ps funds

Records showed that the unclaimed funds comprise supposed grants for the conditional cash transfer (CCT) and modified conditional cash transfer, which was later renamed “Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program” (4Ps).

The poverty alleviation program provides cash grants to the “poorest of the poor, to improve the health, nutrition and the education of children aged 0-18,” according to the government.

The subsidies were given in the form of P500 monthly health grant for each household, and P300 monthly education grant for every child in school, the COA said.

These grants were paid to beneficiary-families through cash cards used to withdraw the money from  automated teller machines, or deposited with the Land Bank of the Philippines.

If these modes are unavailable, the funds are distributed through Globe G-Cash or rural bank, according to the audit report.

However, the COA discovered that the DSWD had retained a total of P1.3 billion, with 1.9 million individual beneficiary accounts having accumulated balances ranging from P501 to more than P50,000.

The grants were not withdrawn for periods ranging from 30 days to more than six years, the COA said.

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The lapse of time that beneficiaries failed to claim their grants showed that they were not in severe need of the subsidy, which cast doubt on the eligibility of the listed beneficiaries, the audit report said.

‘Not in dire need’

“It gives, therefore, an impression that the holders of the accounts are not in dire need of assistance for the education of their children, health needs of the family, and other basic expenses of a family,” the COA said.

Despite repeated notices from state auditors, the DSWD also did not return to the national treasury about P5.4 billion of refunds it received from the Landbank, representing unclaimed over-the-counter 4Ps cash grants from 2013 to 2017, it  said.

The DSWD also did not delist the beneficiaries despite their failure to claim their CCT, the report said.

“It is stressed that the cash grants are intended to augment the financial needs of poor beneficiaries; thus, their failure to claim or collect the cash grants as soon as these are available for a long period of time and for no valid reason means they don’t need the cash grant. Accordingly, these should rightfully be returned to the coffers of the government,” the COA said.

There was no immediate comment from DSWD officials on the report.

The COA also scored the failure of the DSWD to successfully construct 3,200 “transitional shelters” for survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan), amounting to P201 million, despite the grant of an extension of more than a year, from August 2014 to December 2015.

Built in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), were supposed to be temporary shelters for families displaced by the 2013 typhoon in Samar, Eastern Samar and Leyte provinces, while they await permanent relocation.

Refund, remit

“We recommended that [DSWD] require the IOM to refund the total amounts equivalent to the uncompleted transitional shelters including interests thereon if the project will no longer be implemented and to remit the same to the [national treasury],” the COA said.

The DSWD also incurred delays in the construction of 605 classrooms intended for indigenous peoples in Mindanao, due to various “internal and external factors,” according to the audit report.

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