No discrepancies on Zambales Covid-19 fund use

The official also stated that reported lapses are just observations by the CoA that has since been resolved with the government auditing body in a March exit conference


September 12, 2022

IBA, ZAMBALES — The provincial government stressed that the reported “lapses and deficiencies” on the P531 million for Covid-19 related programs and projects implemented in the province were “justified procurement.”

Zambales Governor Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. stressed that the programs and projects had already been resolved with the Commission on Audit, saying that the procurement of welfare goods, as well as drugs and medical and laboratory supplies by the province last year for residents affected by the pandemic is justified.

Ebdane also stressed that reported lapses are just observations by the CoA that has since been resolved with the government auditing body in a March exit conference.

The governor’s statements come after news articles claimed that CoA spotted lapses and deficiencies in Covid-19 fund disbursements by the provincial government, including the purchase of rice from “considerably distant” suppliers, instead of the National Food Authority or local farmers; purchases that were unsupported with a list of affected families or beneficiaries; delayed processing of emergency purchases; and items that were “beyond the reasonable price” set by the Department of Health.

Ebdane stressed that the purchases of rice, medicine and medical supplies were made under the “Bayanihan To Heal As One Act,” which provided for Covid-19 response and recovery interventions, and not under normal procurement laws.

“Early on, we actually decided to buy rice from private sources in Zambales, but there was not enough stock. So, the provincial government bought rice from suppliers as far as Isabela to ensure both quality and quantity,” Ebdane said.

“This is also because we did not want to repeat the sad experience of some municipal governments that bought NFA rice only to find out that the stocks have physically deteriorated. Our people deserved better; we cannot give them something unfit for human consumption,” he added.

The governor also gave the assurance that they have a complete listing — and even cellphone numbers — of beneficiaries who received welfare goods or ayuda.

As to the reported lapse in procurement and utilization of goods and medicine, Ebdane said that in an abnormal situation like the pandemic, the fluctuations and increases in prices of goods were not controlled by the government.

“Remember that we in Zambales treated all our Covid-19 patients for free, and there was a need to stockpile medicine and laboratory supplies due to their scarcity,” Ebdane said.

“We have even allotted funds for vaccines, but were not allowed to purchase so. And the sad part is that we ended up at the bottom of priorities for vaccine allocation because we have somehow managed to control the spread of Covid in the province,” he added.

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