MANILA: The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said on Sunday it has already clarified the issue on the PhP 141-million worth of relief goods stocked in its warehouses as mentioned in the 2014 Audit Observation Report of the Commission on Audit (COA) which was released on Sept. 10.
“We have submitted our management response on the issue and is already included in the final report of the COA,” DSWD Secretary Corazon J. Soliman said.
She said that in their explanation submitted during the exit conference with the COA last July, they clarified that there were no rotten goods in DSWD warehouses as these were all distributed to families needing assistance.
It maybe recalled that in the annual COA audit report, the agency said procurement and acceptance of relief goods without considering the absorptive capacity and condition of the warehousing facilities and staff, available stocks, shelf life or expiry dates and the actual needs of DSWD-Field Offices resulted in undistributed and expired or about to expire relief goods amounting to at least PhP 141.084 million.
In its management response, the DSWD said that the goods being referred to were those prepositioned at the National Resource Operations Center (NROC) — the Department’s main warehouse located in Pasay City — and intended to replenish family food packs for families affected by the eruption of Mayon volcano in Albay in October 2014.
During that period, local authorities then projected a 90-day disaster operations vis-a-vis the Mayon eruption.
However, when local authorities announced that the evacuees could already return to their places of origin earlier than what was projected, disaster operations also were terminated.
DSWD-Field Office V said that their remaining stocks would suffice to cover the recovery efforts for the affected families.
To avoid wastage of the noodles in the family food packs, which only had six-month shelf-life, the food packs were distributed to the centers and institutions in Region V for the Food-for-Work program.
“Thus, the goods were not wasted and did not expire at all because these were distributed before the expiration date,” Secretary Soliman said.
She explained that since the DSWD is responsible in responding to the needs of disaster victims, it is vital that they also ensure that the relief goods are not wasted and that they benefit the people.
In relation to the observation of the COA on the goods that have short shelf life, the DSWD chief said they will no longer include noodles in the family food packs that they will be distributing for disaster relief operations.
She also said that improvements on warehousing facilities are already being undertaken, including the plan to construct and/or rent other warehouses for use during large-scale disaster operations.
As part of the effort in improving the delivery of better response during disasters, the DSWD is currently working with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) for the construction of island cluster warehouses to serve as storage as well as training centers for logistics and warehouse management.
The target locations for said warehouses-cum-training centers are Clark Field in Pampanga for Luzon, Cebu for the Visayas, and Davao for Mindanao.
“We have also partnered with WFP for the setting up of a mechanized repacking system which will be inaugurated this month,” Secretary Soliman said.
DSWD is also in the process of training personnel to help them gain skill in disaster response, including proper warehouse operations and recording of all relief goods, she added.
She noted that the COA audit findings are part of government routine to enhance operations of agencies like the DSWD, which is in the forefront of bringing relief services to the people.
Soliman said she welcomes the COA report that is intended to seek the necessary clarification, adding she believes that such reports do not mean that the findings are actual irregularities but are just pointing to the clarifications or explanations needed.
PNA with Leilani S. Junio