STATE auditors have pointed out several deficiencies in the way National Government agencies and local government units responded to help typhoon Yolanda survivors.

But they were also quick to recommend ways to avoid similar lapses in the event that another calamity happens.

Planning, coordination among government agencies and local officials, proper inventory and distribution of relief goods are crucial in ensuring that aid reaches the intended beneficiaries immediately.

In its report on the audit of typhoon Yolanda relief operations released last September, the Commission on Audit (COA) noted that more than a month after Yolanda pummeled the Visayas, P736.3 million out of the P740.2 million in cash donations for Yolanda survivors remained unused and deposited in the bank account of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as of Dec. 31, 2013.

Most of COA’s adverse findings had to do with poor inventory, storage and transport of relief goods, which in some instances, resulted in relief goods getting wasted and much-needed help getting delayed.

Officials of DSWD, the lead agency in the relief operations, already said earlier that limited manpower and equipment hampered some aspects of the relief operations in Cebu.

COA also noted that foreign and local cash donations were not immediately spent to help the survivors in the most crucial time of the relief operations.

To make sure that funds are immediately used to assist survivors of calamities, COA said that implementing agencies must come up with a program of work for the efficient use of disaster funds.

“When activities among concerned agencies are well coordinated and strategies in project implementation are improved, disaster funds will immediately cater to the purpose for which they are intended,” the auditor’s report read.

To avoid unnecessary delays in the relief operations, particularly in the delivery of relief goods and other forms of assistance to survivors, COA also recommended the following to DSWD:

* Officials should see to it that processing time for requests and release of funds in DSWD and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), respectively, for disaster-related activities is improved to better serve the needs of affected families;

* Disaster preparedness of the local disaster risk-reduction and response operation offices and other staff involved in disaster operations should be strengthened, specifically those facilitating donations and warehouse management;

* Adequate logistics and storage facilities should be available; and

* Existing guidelines in the storage of relief goods should be enhanced, which shall provide for accountable, transparent, efficient, economical and effective relief operations.

COA acknowledged, though, that in some cases, the delays were caused by audit rules and procedures that required time-consuming processes, which kept agencies and officials from acting swiftly.

Auditors said the government has already relaxed its policies, including procurement, during disasters.

“Albeit we are caught in the middle of an emergency crisis, we cannot do away with the call for accountability and transparency. Necessary controls must still be in place to ease the process of monitoring and validation,” the audit report read. (LRC)