Yolanda rehab, aid audit pressed

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Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Caritas Philippines Executive Secretary

MANILA, July 15, 2016— Catholic charities are urging the Duterte administration to ensure the full accountability and audit of the government’s Typhoon Yolanda response.

Caritas Philippines and Caritas Canada said the government must hasten its rehabilitation efforts and make concerned government agencies explain how the funds meant for Yolanda victims have been used.

“Now is a very opportune time to try to bring about change,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Caritas Philippines executive secretary Fr. Edwin Gariguez said as the new administration is welcomed with optimistic platforms for meaningful policy change for the poor and most vulnerable

In a forum held Friday, he particularly cited as example of how slow the government’s recovery program in 2014 when only 2,100 houses were built for typhoon-affected communities in contrast to the 3,117 houses built by the Caritas during the same period.

He said the efforts of the Church is intended to complement the emergency response of the government which is the one primarily mandated to be the major responder.

“Regrettably, the government response was deemed very slow and obviously inadequate. There is really nothing “heroic” in the way the recovery program was carried out,” Gariguez said.

Latest data from the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) showed that only 19,330 shelters were completed by the government as of March this year, which Gariguez said is far below the overall target of 205,128 units.

The priest also acknowledged the international community and other humanitarian agencies who took an active role in the relief and recovery efforts. But he also reminded them to ensure full accountability and audit of its Yolanda response.

According to the report of Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAITH), a government monitoring mechanism, the total foreign aid received by the government is P1.2 billion cash and P1.2 billion in non-cash. Non-government organizations and multilateral organizations, on the other hand, received P14.8 billion cash and non-cash.

“However, there is no available report as to how these contributions were spent. And according to a Commission on Audit (COA) report released in September 2014, there is no single agency that tracks all the donations from foreign funding,” he added.

The forum was attended by different key players in the Yolanda response such as representatives of government agencies, multilateral organizations, international non-government organizations, civil society organizations, foreign embassies, Yolanda survivors, and members of the Caritas network.

The new administration is also asked to have a better and coordinated approach in the completion of the remaining gaps in the Yolanda response, strengthen the role of the local government units, and create a cabinet-level body that will have full authority in implementing and coordinating the Yolanda efforts.

Caritas Philippines is currently implementing the Church’s largest three-year rehabilitation program called “REACHPhilippines” with the dioceses of the nine provinces worst-hit by the typhoon.

“We make sure that transparent and honest spending is being practiced in all levels through regular financial monitoring, evaluation and audit from international auditing companies,” the priest said. (CBCPNews)


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