Sep 112014

Ten months since super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) wreaked havoc in Central Philippines, the government has yet to create or designate a single agency that will ensure that all donated funds for relief operations reach their intended beneficiaries or materialize into envisioned projects. 

“At present, there is no single agency that is actually monitoring the receipt and utilization of funds received as donation or grants for calamity victims,” the Commission on Audit’s special report on Typhoon Yolanda disclosed.

Although the government created the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH) that tracks the pledges and donations of countries and international organizations, the hub does not scrutinize local and foreign donations carried by nongovernment organizations and private entities. 

FAiTH does not monitor donations directly given to local government units.

“Pledges of foreign aid coursed through nongovernment organizations (NGOs), such as the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) or other international aid agencies can also be recorded in the portal, but cannot be tracked,” COA said.

The FAiTH Task Force has representatives from different government agencies: Department of Budget and Management, Commission on Filipino Overseas, Department of Finance, Department of Health, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Social Welfare and Development, National Economic and Development Authority, Office of Civil Defense, Office of Presidential Spokesperson, Presidential Management Staff and the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office.

As of 8 September 2014, the country has received P71 billion ($1.626 billion) worth of foreign aid pledges in cash and in kind, but only P15 billion ($349.404 million) has materialized. 

“Not all pledges materialized into actual donations as others have remained as mere pledges,” the report read. 

To account for the donations, one must ask for a report from different national government agencies and local government units if they have received and has full accounting of the donations. 

DSWD, which was chided in the special report for failing to spent hundred of millions of pesos during the relief operations in December 2013, has an  online donation monitoring system.
To date, the department has received a total donation of $23.784 million (approximately P1.047 billion) and P98.312 million. Out of this figure, donations amounting to P101.320 million and $877,825 have yet to be used as of Tuesday. 

New mechanism in place for rehabilitation projects

Meanwhile, the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery created a new mechanism to track down the donations provided by the government and private sector for rehabilitation projects after the super typhoon.

In a phone interview with GMA News Online, OPARR spokesperson Karen Jimeno said the office has created Electronic Management Platform for Accountability and Transparency Hub for Yolanda or EMPATHY.

Although OPARR “has no authority to receive donations and manage funds,” Jimeno said that EMPATHY was created to ensure transparency and accountability of donated and government funds.

All the rehabilitation projects including government and privately funded programs will be included on EMPATHY, Jimeno said. 

Since the government has no authority over non-government organizations and foundations to declare the donations that they have received, the OPARR spokesperson believed that “moral pressure” will ensue among private entities.

“We encourage the private donors to share their information with us,” she said.

EMPATHY will be available to the public hopefully in October following the official inauguration of the OPARR website, she added. 

She explained that the ones tasked to update the information on EMPATHY will be the implementers like the Public Works Department or the local government units.

However, she said that OPARR has an oversight function, so if they saw an anomaly based on the information provided to them, the agency may investigate and eventually file a case against the project implementors.

EMPATHY is not yet online, so Jimeno said that the public may visit Open Reconstruction, an online database of government projects.  — ELR, GMA News

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