State auditors revealed that the Department of National Defense (DND) used its Quick Response Fund (QRF) totaling P128.6 million as fund transfer for the repair and reconstruction of facilities which is not in accordance with the purposes of the fund.
In its 2015 audit report on the DND, the Commission on Audit (COA) pointed out that under the law, the purpose of the QRF is as a stand-by fund for immediate assistance to people in communities and areas hit by catastrophes and crises.
The DND had P572.9 million for disaster risk reduction and management services for 2015, broken down into P352.5 million from the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA), and P220.4 million from continuing appropriation.
COA said that of this amount, ₱236 million was used during the year for the acquisition of goods and equipment (P88.97 million), repairs and construction (P12.03 million), and fund transfers to various Implementing Agencies or IAs (P73.93 million).
State auditors said they noted several deficiencies in their review of DND’s transactions, as well as overpricing and previous unliquidated fund transfers made to the AFP General Headquarters, Office of Civil Defense, and the Philippine Army.
The transfer of funds using the QRF was not in accordance with the intended purpose of QRF as authorized in DND’s budget, COA said, because it defeats the purpose of the QRF as stand-by fund to ensure immediate action during calamities. It added that DND is not an implementing agency for rehabilitation and reconstruction projects but the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways).
According to state auditors, DND transferred P73.9 million to the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Finance Center during the year for the repair, maintenance and reconstruction of permanent structures of the Central Command (CENTCOM), construction of facilities of OCD Regional Office IX, the construction of OCD Regional Office II and equipment and the construction of OCD Regional Office II.
The above transfers, they said, “do not appear to be within the intended purpose of QRF as authorized in DND’s budget.”
COA also noted that other government agencies had facilities which were affected by disasters but could not have these repaired or reconstructed because they have no capital outlay in their budget.
Thus, for DND and its bureaus to take advantage of the QRF lodged in their budget for their own facilities may not be proper, it added.
Lastly, COA said that the purpose of the fund transfer did not directly benefit the intended beneficiaries of the QRF — people living in communities or areas hit by calamities, epidemics, crises, and catastrophes.
For its part, the DND commented that it “is implanting the provisions of the General Appropriations Act on the utilization of the QRF.”
It said that the programs, activities, and projects under DND’s QRF are geared towards ensuring that the situation and living conditions of calamity victims may be normalized as quickly as possible through the provision and construction of three-in-one facilities, organization, equipage and training of disaster responders, and construction/rehabilitation or repair of AFP camps and facilities destroyed by natural calamities.
The utilization of the QRF for prepositioning allowed the DND to continue using its QRF for the organization, training and equipage of AFP disaster units for most types of emergencies, the DND added.
“On transferring QRF funds to various implementing agencies notwithstanding that these agencies have previous unliquidated fund transfers, we need to urgently initiate the transfer of funds under extraordinary circumstances and strike a balance between policy and urgency of requirements to restore public service and provide support to damage facilities in disaster-affected areas,” it said.