For CY 2020, there is no bigger government program, project or activity that is so material, huge and pervasive enough that permeates and affects the life of every Filipino other than transactions that involve the use of COVID-19 Funds. At the inception of the government imposed quarantine restrictions in March, 2020 to curb both the rising trend of COVID-19 infections and the fatalities caused by COVID-19, public spending for COVID-19 programs and activities also started to protect people from getting contaminated and treat those infected with COVID-19.
These expenses for COVID-19 steadily escalate with the continuous rise in COVID-19 infections. The situation becomes rather complicated since while the government spent heavily in providing treatment and treatment facilities for those contaminated by COVID-19, the government likewise has to spend a lot of funds to sustain the daily subsistence of people who were locked down and were confined in their residences with no work nor source of income due to the quarantine restrictions. Alarmed by the steady increase in the expenditures for COVID-19 transactions which are mostly categorized as urgent and emergency, COA XI Director Roy L. Ursal foresee the need of a timely and effective audit of these COVID-19 expenses if COA is to live up with its mandate as enabling partner of government to ensure success of government’s thrusts and programs on COVID-19. With this in mind, Director Ursal created a working committee composed of personnel in Office of the Regional Director to craft a very comprehensive set of audit programs to address all areas on COVID-19 funds. These audit programs were intended primarily to readily enable and assist the audit teams with limited manpower in the review and evaluation COVID-19 transactions very comprehensively with the prospect that the thorough review of these transactions would lead these teams to issue relevant, effective and meaningful recommendations that would guide and help management achieve their desired objectives and targets for COVID-19 programs and activities within the bounds of pertinent laws and guidelines.
In a Memorandum issued on June 8, 2020, Director Ursal formed and closely guided a Committee to prepare and draft the audit programs for the COVID-19 funds focusing on the following areas:
I. Fund Sourcing for COVID-19 Plans, Programs and Activities;
II. Procurement and Procurement Projects on COVID-19 Programs and Activities;
III. Distribution and Entitlement of COVID-19 Benefits; and
IV. Accountability Reporting on COVID-19 Expenditures, Programs and Activities.
The crafting of the audit programs for COVID-19 indeed was not a simple task since there is as yet no audit circular, memo nor guideline that treat specifically on COVID-19 programs and activities where the audit programs can be based upon. The closest audit issuance that can be used as reference are the COA Circular and Memos for Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund or the accounting and auditing circulars for Calamity Fund. In effect, COVID-19 Fund is treated as a Trust Fund as it is in the nature of a Calamity Fund.
Confronted with this difficulty, the audit program working committee composed of Ms. Dianne M. Amigo, SA III, Ms. Rosette G. Reyno, SA II, Ms. Joan Mafe Dovey A. Tar, SA I and Ms. Ever Laine R. Domingo, SAE II were advised and instructed to refer to the provisions of PPSAS and the ISSAI standards pertaining to Trust Funds as well as the laws, resolutions, circulars, orders, and pronouncements by government agencies treating on COVID-19 in the preparation of the audit programs. In drafting the audit objectives and procedures, the Committee had to rely on these laws and regulations on COVID-19 which number about forty-seven (47) issuances. The draft audit programs for COVID-19 were completed by the committee in mid-July and were exposed to the audit groups and teams in the local, national and corporate audit sectors for comments and inputs. After about two (2) months since the committee was formed, the very comprehensive audit programs for COVID-19 expenditures, programs and activities were finished and eventually disseminated and posted in the COA XI website for ready reference in the audit of COVID-19.
Atty. Roy L. Ursal meeting with the members of the Committee on July 7, 2020