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Government agencies not using disaster funds.

Manila: The government's slow use of funds for disaster preparedness and response is facing criticism as an audit showed that these finances are left to languish in trust funds where it accumulates interest.

A recently released 2014 report by the Commission on Audit (COA) on finances earmarked for calamity and quick response funds (QRF) by particular government agencies stated that much of the funds been left largely untouched from 2008 despite the number of disasters and calamities that struck the country.

The utilisation rate for these allocations had been placed at a measly 17.39 per cent.

"Based on the status report of the Department of Budget and Management on the releases of fund, balance of the 2015 NDRRM (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management) Fund or calamity fund is 10.28 billion pesos (Dh805 million) as of September 30, 2015. On top of that, we still have so much left QRF amounting to 5.45 billion pesos (Dh427 million). We have 81 per cent of the QRF unutilised. Does this mean that these agencies have been able to provide for relief and other post-disaster needs of those who were affected by the 11 typhoons that hit the country?" Senator Loren Legarda, chairperson of the Senate Committees on Finance and Climate Change asked.

There were earlier suspicions that special funds such as the QRF and those allotted for calamities are being set aside in banks where they accumulate interest.

Legarda said these idle funds would have been put to better use if they had been utilised as originally intended.

"If we have 10 billion pesos in NDRRM Fund plus 5 billion pesos remaining in QRF, we have more than 15 billion pesos worth of government funds that we can use for Lando (typhoon Koppu) victims," she said as she referred to the victims of the calamity in Central Luzon that displaced thousands of people last month.

She said many survivors of calamities in recent years are still suffering and have yet to rebuild their homes and regain their sources of livelihood.

"This compels me to look into how efficiently these funds are allocated and released to member agencies of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). Before we approve the budget of these agencies comprising the NDRRMC, they need to explain how they utilise the QRF and also the NDRRM Fund," she said.

"There is no reason that relief and rehabilitation programmes would be delayed. We cannot allow the approval of funds only to remain idle while many disaster victims and climate refugees live in deplorable conditions. We allocate resources to aid the most needy of our people," Legarda lamented.

Bulk of the calamity and quick response funds were earmarked to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Based on the COA report, the social welfare development was allotted 1.325 billion pesos (Dh103 million) but only utilised 311.603 million pesos (Dh24.4 million).

"We [Senate] do not approve funds just to go stale in banks. That is why it is called aACAyquick' response fund; otherwise it defeats the purpose of Congress for creating such allocation. It is also an injustice to allow disaster victims to suffer more when the government actually has the resources to alleviate their suffering now," Legarda said.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Nov 4, 2015
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