This is a continuation of my post, “Crunching the DSWD numbers“, in which I examined two of the records that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) had made available on its web site. While I discovered several disturbing discrepancies, I was unable to get to the heart of the issue that had been brought up by blogger Ella: the inefficiency of the DSWD.
Two factors have been cited to account for the sluggish pace at which relief operations have been proceeding: first, a lack of volunteers, which has been validated by firsthand accounts such as “Flooded with relief” by Manolo Quezon, “Are relief goods from abroad gathering dust in DSWD warehouse?” by Dementia, and “Been there done that DSWD!” by Deviliscious, and while DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral has vigorously denied that the lack of volunteers has been an impediment, the fact that she did call Gang Badoy of RockEd Philippines to ask for assistance is telling; and second, a release system that, apparently in the interest of security, is dependent on incoming requests from DSWD regional offices and local government units.
In addition to the tally of in-kind donations received and the tally of released donations, I consider a third record: the tally of cash donations received. As with my previous post, the time frame I consider is from September 27 to October 27, 2009 only, although I retrieved the last document on October 31.
Let me begin with a slightly different presentation of the cash donations received:
Many donors have still not been issued official receipts, but that is somewhat understandable—for those who have yet to be identified, at any rate. Exponentially less understandable is the reason that varying entities were issued the same receipts. Take a look at the transactions on October 22, for instance: the Ateneo Grade School Community Association, the Department of Public Works and Highways Regional Office XI, Estrella Brigole and Erlinda Daycan, Editha Tugap, the Department of Natural Resouces Regional Office XI, PHRMO Davao del Norte, and the Deparment of Education Davao del Norte were all given Official Receipt Number 1921132. What is that supposed to mean?
Based on the above data, the DSWD has received a total of PhP115,222,984.72 in cash donations.
Here, again, is a summary of the in-kind donations received, which was generated from the error-riddled DSWD record:
Seeing that the total based on Actual Monetary Value (PhP54,563,321.50) would seem to be the most accurate—it is closest to the Reported Grand Total of PhP59,426,418.75, if nothing else—the total combined value of donations that the DSWD has received, excluding unmonetized donations, is PhP169,786,306.22. How has that value been utilized? Below is a comparative analysis of donations received and donations released. I have also indicated the cumulative value of donations that remain unutilized.
Here is the accompanying chart:
It is true that the warehouse is still filled with relief goods and that is thanks to the generous hearts of individuals and organizations both here and abroad…Just because the warehouse is full does not mean there is hoarding. We have to have calibrated release. When we receive requests from the regional office or evacuation center or local government unit, then we release goods to them. Every day we release goods and every day we receive donations.
Relief response is not just emergency assistance. There will come a time when we have to do recovery work and rehabilitation work and when that time comes there will not be many volunteers left. There will be large NGOs that we usually work with but mostly it will be the government that will provide relief to these people who are starting to recover and who need to be rehabilitated. We need to keep some resources for them because when that time comes, there will be no more donations coming in.
Some [of the goods] will be reserved. It depends on whether we’ve fulfilled the emergency needs. If those goods are required for emergency release, then it will all be released for emergency relief. If some goods are left behind, then they will be used for recovery and rehabilitation.
Does an average non-utilization rate of 74.63% constitute a “calibrated release”? How was such a calibration arrived at, and how effective has it proven to be? Consider also that on October 25, the utilization rate was the same as the day before, because there was no release of donations whatsoever.
In view of what I have found, it seems fair to say that transparency and ineptitude are not mutually exclusive. While the DSWD is to be lauded for undertaking relief operations in what seems to be as honest a manner as possible, that does not excuse what is clearly incompetent documentation—and which could be symptomatic of graver problems. At the very least, DSWD should strive to make its records accurate and easily “cross-referentiable”, as this is the easiest way to earn the trust of the general public. If the DSWD cannot be relied upon to produce correct documents, what can it be relied upon to do?
I have raised several important questions in this entry, but let me reiterate and expound upon them here:
- How does the request-based release system work? While security is certainly a valid concern, is it worth giving up rapid relief delivery? How much time elapses between the filing of a request and the correspondent release of relief goods, anyway? Does the DSWD do need-matching between victims and available donations? If so, how long does that take?
- How long does it take to identify a donor and issue a receipt to said donor? Why are different donors being issued the same receipt? How have the cash donations been used?
- What does “calibrated release” mean, exactly? What is the rationale behind the low utilization rate of donations? Is this based on historical data or projections for future needs? Where can such data or such projections be found?