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Lawmakers call for simpler, quicker SAP aid distribution

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Several lawmakers in the House of Representatives called for a simpler and more expeditious approach in distributing the second tranche of financial assistance under the government’s Social Amelioration Program (SAP).

A public hearing was conducted by the committee on good government and public accountability and the committee on public accounts on June 22, 2020, to investigate how the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) distributed the first tranche of SAP amounting PHP100 billion in financial aid for 18 million low-income households nationwide.

The SAP aid included P5,000 to P8,000 for each beneficiary household depending on the proposed subsidy in each region in compliance with the Republic Act No. 11469 or Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

DSWD undersecretaries and regional directors were invited to answer questions of alleged inefficiencies and anomalies regarding SAP aid distribution.

DSWD Sec. Rolando Bautista was not present during the hearing because Committee chairman Rep. Jose Antonio Sy Alvarado said the clarifications were at the level of regional implementation. Alvarado personally vouched for Sec. Bautista’s competence and the secretary’s presence was not required in the investigation.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said he observed the following deficiencies during the 1st tranche of SAP aid distribution:

  1. Bureaucratic with too much requirements and tedious process
  2. Inadequacies and lack of manpower resources that cause slow distribution
  3. Insensitivity to PWD, Senior Citizen sectors
  4. Corruption
  5. High risk of contracting Covid-19
  6. Duplication of beneficiaries
  7. Complaints posted on social media covered by mainstream media
  8. Confusion among LGUs and barangays
  9. Lack or breakdown of communication

Cayetano said the processes and requirements should be simplified to avoid delay of SAP benefits.

According to Cayetano, there is a need for house-to-house distribution, a transparent data monitoring system, an accessible grievance mechanism, and active coordination and communication among all stakeholders.

DSWD undersecretary Danilo Pamonag said the department fulfilled its mandate and responsibilities in the 1st tranche of the SAP when it immediately transferred funds from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to local government units (LGUs).

Pamonag said the DBM released P100-billion on April 2, 2020, for SAP, and on the same day, DSWD Central Office downloaded funds to its Field Office NCR. On the next day, April 3, 2020, other DSWD Field Offices started to transfer funds to their respective LGUs.

“As early as March 31, 2020, the DSWD started to distribute SAC (Social Amelioration Card) forms to some LGUs and this has provided an opportunity for them to determine the eligible beneficiaries in their areas based on the indicative allocation set by the economic cluster team,” Pamonag said.

Pamonag said the following caused delays in first tranche SAP distribution:

  1. Stringent validation process of LGUs in determining eligible beneficiaries amplified by grievances received on SAP exclusion and waitlisted beneficiaries caused by prioritization.
  2. Mobility constraints to geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas where sea and air transportation support were required.
  3. Health risks to SAP implementers who were required to undergo 14-day quarantine. These has caused the postponement of cash distribution in some areas.
  4. Security threats from communist terrorists and clan wars led to the postponement of scheduled SAP aid distribution.

With the numerous grievances received by the department, the inclusion of waitlisted or “left out families” to the second tranche was advocated by the DSWD, with more than 5 million additional households that will be included raising the total to 23 million.

The department will utilize digital payment schemes for contactless aid distribution and facilitate SAP beneficiaries data gathering.  In partnership with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Developers Connect Philippines (DevConPH) in developing ReliefAgad.ph online application.

From April 5 to June 21, 2020, the DSWD has provided the subsidy to 17.6 million families utilizing P99.6-billion.

1,214 out of 1,526 (80%) LGUs have already completed and submitted SAP liquidation reports to the DSWD for post validation audits.

Pamonag said the DSWD activated its agency operations center, established a website to post the names of SAP beneficiaries for transparency, and grievances address mechanisms to respond to complaints.

Committee vice-chairman Rep. Mike Defensor said concerned local government units should also explain the causes of SAP aid distribution delays in the next hearing session. (iNews.com.ph)

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