Govt auditors: P1.3B in cash grants unused

A total of P1.3 billion for conditional cash transfer /modified CCT beneficiaries was not withdrawn from 2008 to 2017, according to state auditors.

This observation was made in the Commission on Audit’s (CoA) Consolidated Annual Audit Report on the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for 2017.

“Examination of the cash card balances of beneficiaries’ accounts with the LBP [Land Bank of the Philippines], prepaid card and First Consolidated Bank- Palawan, Bohol and Siquijor and other provinces revealed that as at December 31, 2017, there were 2,671,314 accounts with unwithdrawn balances totaling ₱1,323.453 million from 2008 to 2017,” CoA said.

These included 1,889,994 accounts with P1.2 billion, ranging from P501 to over P50,000, which were not withdrawn from 30 to over 2,190 days upon payout.

“It bears emphasizing that the cash grants are benefits given to the poorest municipalities, homeless and indigenous people whose economic condition is equal to or below the provincial poverty threshold to augment their day to day expenses. It is very remarkable that the accounts have very significant unwithdrawn amounts. It gives, therefore, an impression that the holders of the accounts are not in dire need of assistance for the education of their children, health needs of the family and other basic expenses of a family,” the state auditors said.

“The continuous non-withdrawal of the cash grants only showed that the holders do not need the financial assistance/cash grant and do not really belong to the poorest of the poor as well as may not be eligible to be a CCT beneficiary; thus, defeating the purpose of the 4Ps/CCT program to alleviate poverty by improving the health, nutrition, education of the poorest families, homeless and assistance to indigenous people,” it said.

The 4Ps is the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, also known as the CCT, which aims to reduce poverty by providing cash grants to extremely poor households so that they can meet human development goals.

According to the audit report, the 4Ps has two types of cash grants: the monthly health grant of P500 per household (HH), or a total of P6,000 a year; and the monthly education grant of P300 per child for 10 months, or a total of P3,000 a year (a maximum of three children may be registered by the HH).

The cash grants are distributed to HH-beneficiaries through the LBP or alternate payment schemes such as Globe G-Cash remittance and rural bank transactions. The modes of payment for CCT cash grants shall be: cash card automated teller machine (ATM) , over the counter (OTC) and other mode of payment “which can be done when the areas defined are not accessible to the Land Bank ATM for Cash Card mode, and the Land Bank cannot do offsite payments for OTC mode.”

CoA said records showed that 32,783 accounts with a P108.6-million total outstanding balance had no date of last monetary activity, or no withdrawal from the date that they were opened.

“Despite the accounts having no movement and the constant reporting of the LBP to the DSWD for such occurrence, delisting of the accounts were still not made,” it added.

“While we noted a decrease in the number of accounts and balances at 7.17 percent from CY [Calendar Year] 2016 to CY 2017, there is still a huge amount to be remitted to the BTr [Bureau of the Treasury] to be used for other equally needed projects that should be funded by the government; thus, it is necessary that bold actions be taken on the idle cash lodged in the accounts of seemingly unqualified beneficiaries,” the government auditors said.

Balances that were not withdrawn totaled P1.42 billion in 2016.

CoA said in response to audit recommendations in 2016, the DSWD issued NAC Resolution No. 41, Series of 2017 which provides, among others: a policy providing for the closure of non-moving accounts and the return to the BTr of unwithdrawn and unclaimed cash grants for over two years (over 730 days) be adopted; the DSWD shall validate households’ cash card accounts which were non-moving for two years and less but have unwithdrawn balance over P5,000 to determine whether the balances are for release or for return to the BTr, but grants which have been idle thereat for at two years shall be remitted to the BTr; grants of households with pending request for cash card replacement and for undistributed grants through OTC because of unavailability of service provider shall not be returned to the BTr, regardless if the account’s dormancy exceeded two years; and households’ unclaimed cash grants for two years and less shall be subject to rescheduling, validation and other efforts to ensure release.

CoA recommended the DSWD, which agreed, to require the National Project Monitoring Office to “[c]oordinate with the LBP on the status of cash cards issued to beneficiaries and make necessary actions to recover the amount to be remitted to the BTR” and to “[e]xpedite the validation/investigation/re-assessment of the eligibility of concerned beneficiaries and fast-track the implementation of the resolution to address the problem.”

The audit report stated that the DSWD also agreed to intensify field personnel’s monitoring and follow-up of beneficiaries and the updating of the database for non-compliant/delisted beneficiaries, and to strictly implement the NAC resolution.

According to the report, “Management opined that only accounts that have not been withdrawn for more than 180 days [or six months]should be considered non-moving since the 4Ps has a bi-monthly payout scheme in all modes of payment and it takes 120 days [or four months]to update and process the basic information of beneficiary households. Nonetheless, management is already taking steps to comply with the recommendations.”

In the same audit report, CoA said refunds from LBP conduits “totaling ₱5.385 billion” made in 2013 to 2017, which represented unclaimed cash grants of 4Ps beneficiaries for OTC payment mode, were not returned to the BTr.

“Records showed that included in the liquidations for CYs 2013 to 2017 were refunds by the LBP conduits totaling ₱5,566.423 million,” it added.

“As deduced from the above table, the amount of ₱4,099.822 million pertains to refunds of LBP conduits from unclaimed cash grants for CYs 2013 to 2016 which should have been remitted to the BTr in compliance with Section 88 of the General Provisions of the FY [Fiscal Year] 2017 GAA [General Appropriations Act],” CoA said.

The remittance to the BTr as of year-end 2017 was P181.077 million, which supposedly left an unremitted balance of P5.38 billion.

“It is stressed that the cash grants are intended to augment the financial needs of poor beneficiaries; thus, their failure to claim or collect the cash grants as soon as these are available, for a long period of time and for no valid reason means that they don’t need the cash grant. Accordingly, these should rightfully be returned to the coffers of the government,” CoA said.

“In CY 2016, we observed that refunds from the LBP conduits amounting to P4.099 billion representing unclaimed cash grants of 4Ps beneficiaries for OTC mode of payment, were not returned to the BTr. In response to our recommendation, the DSWD issued AO No. 13, Series of 2017 entitled, Guidelines in the Remittance of Unclaimed Pantawid Cash Grants to the BTr, to address the issue. We noted, however, that only the amount of ₱181,076,600.00 or 3.25 percent was returned to the BTr covering the period CYs 2013 to 2017; thus, depriving the government of the proper disposition of these funds and full benefits that would redound to the nation as a whole,” it added.

The audit body reiterated its prior year’s recommendation that the DSWD require concerned officials to remit in full to the BTr refunds that represented unclaimed cash grants for prior years.

“We likewise recommended that management revisit and strengthen the policy on the forfeiture of unclaimed cash grants and remittance of refunds to the BTr to ensure that government resources are maximized,” it said.

“Management informed us that they cannot fully comply with the recommendations since there are set guidelines such that remittance pursuant to the issued AO and NAC Policy which provides for remittance of unclaimed cash grants which are less than two [2] years will be subject for rescheduling and for those more than two [2] years will be remitted to the BTr, except for those unclaimed cash grants with terminated conduits and unclaimed retro payrolls. It further commented that only the amount of ₱1.088 billion is due for remittance to the BTr,” according to CoA. REINA C. TOLENTINO

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