Crunching the DSWD numbers, part 2

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?

A summary of cash donations received follows. Kindly note that I took the exchange rates directly from Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

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:

Cabral has stated that:

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?

Meanwhile, the DSWD still needs help. Sign up as a Rock Ed volunteer, or proceed to the DSWD warehouse directly—walk-in volunteers are welcome.

Crunching the DSWD numbers

Much has already been made, both in cyberspace and in meatspace, of the entry entitled, “Aanhin pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo? (A special report from a volunteer)” by blogger Ella. If the controversial entry, which questions the efficiency of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in conducting relief operations, is more strident and more provocative than absolutely necessary, especially toward the end, when Ella speculates that the goods thus far unreleased might magically surface during campaign season or in flea markets, the fact that many people assumed the worst—and behaved at their worst, should the comments that I have read on the issue be any indication—is a clear demonstration of at least two things: first, the despair and outrage at the devastation caused by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, which have not found an outlet for sufficient expression and catharsis; and second, the low regard in which the government in general, and the present dispensation in particular, is held.

Given such, working honestly and competently in government could well be a Sisyphean task—when everyone is determined to be cynical and hostile, what point is there in trying to do, or even intend, any good? Still, DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral seems willing to take on the challenge. As she stated in an October 25 letter to Philippine Daily Inquirer editor-in-chief Leticia J. Magsanoc,  “Our Department is not perfect, but I can assure you that the overwhelming majority of us are competent at what we do and that we do our jobs with integrity.

A recent development bears this assertion out: the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) ranked the DSWD first among 109 agencies in terms of compliance to the requirements of the Integrity Development Action Plan (IDAP), the government’s anti-corruption strategy—a rank it has held since 2007. The IDAP consists of 22 different measures to address corruption, and covers four areas: prevention, education, deterrence, and strategic partnership. (Below is a presentation on the IDAP for reference.)

One of the more notable signs of the commitment of the DSWD to transparency and accountability is to allow the public access to its records of donations received and released via its official web site, a list of which follows below:

That DSWD made these records available apparently without prompting or pressure is a move worth recognizing. Cabral, in the same letter to Magsanoc quoted above, made a good point when she said, “We could have very well kept the information to ourselves and you will likely be none the wiser.”

That said, there is certainly plenty of room for improvement. On the question of rapid action, for instance, which was the main bone of contention for Ella, Manolo Quezon remarked in his column that:

The blunt answer is, the DSWD could be moving faster, and it took the public outcry caused by the blog for the government to start sounding a call for more volunteers, which sidesteps the question of whether it’s a wise or even necessary policy to rely on volunteers for a line agency to fulfill its functions. The DSWD has done a lot, as it is; so the public interest lies in figuring out how it could do better—which it can’t do, without the public participating by means of criticism and helping in problem-solving.

He also stated in his supplement to the column that, while the records as such appear to indicate that the DSWD is indeed being a responsible steward of the donations, they are rife with inconsistencies. It is therefore difficult to make any firm conclusions, though it is not from a lack of trying: one need merely take a look at the number of ways that he and a few online volunteers were able to present and re-present the data.

What follow below are my own attempts at crunching the DSWD numbers. Obviously, my findings are in no way definitive or exhaustive.

Considering that the DSWD records are Google Documents, which are meant to be easily changed and updated, I uploaded the records on which I based my study to my Scribd account: the tally of in-kind donations received here, and the tally of released donations here. The inclusive dates are September 27 to October 27.

Findings on Donations Received

(Note: The yellow columns in the spreadsheet are ones that I added to the record. Everything else either appeared as is or was rearranged for clarity.)

  • With regard to donations received, the DSWD was tracking five basic variables: (a) date received; (b) donor; (c) goods/services donated; (d) quantity of units donated; and (e) monetized unit value.  Upon multiplying the latter two, a sixth variable, (f) the total monetized value of the donation, would result. Producing (f) is easy enough; with a spreadsheet program, all one has to do is copy the formula to the relevant cells. As can be seen toward the bottom of the first page, which reflects all the donations received on September 27, 2009, there are significant differences between the figures in the Reported Monetized Value (RMV) column, which appeared as is on the DSWD record, and the figures in the Actual Monetized Value (AMV) column, which were generated simply by multiplying quantity of units donated with the monetized value per unit. The DSWD received goods from the UNICEF which had monetized unit values, but were nevertheless marked “For monetization”, leading to a discrepancy of PhP396,550.00.
  • Another discrepancy lies with the Reported Total of the Day (RTD), which also appeared as is on the DSWD record. The RTD for September 27 is PhP2,369,440.00, but the figures that contributed to this specific total cannot be found. In truth, this RTD conflicts both with the Total RMV and the Total AMV. Inexplicably, there are three different totals for the same set of donations received.
  • The record for the next day, September 28, shows no difference between the Total RMV and the Total AMV, but the RTD is smaller than either by PhP804,900.00. It is only on the third day, September 29, that the RTD, the Total RMV, and the Total AMV are finally the same figure. From September 30 onwards, however, the RTD is no longer recorded.
  • On October 5, the World Food Program donated 50 kilograms of National Food Authority (NFA) rice, but the value of the donation was recorded as Php0.00.
  • On October 13, General Santos (care of Aboitiz) donated 26 boxes of noodles. Each box contained 72 packages of noodles. The unit value per package is recorded as PhP540.00. Then, the RMV for the entire donation is recorded as PhP5,400.00. Evidently, both values are suspect, but if the unit value is accepted for what it is, then the AMV of the entire donation is PhP1,010,880.00.
  • Added on October 31: Note that the immediately succeeding entry, which is also a donation of 900 packages of noodles from General Santos, has no reported value. Is this second set of noodles different from the first?
  • At the very end of the record, the Reported Grand Total of donations is PhP59,426,418.75. This figure does not seem to be based on any of the totals that could be derived from the available data.

Here is a summary that shows the discrepancies between and among the various totals:

As I note in the summary, the actual figures—when these are finally determined—should be much larger than they are, as so many donations still remain unmonetized:

I have included the UNICEF donations that arrived on September 27 because of the “For monetization” remarks.

Findings on Donations Released

  • Unlike the previous record, there seem to be no discrepancies as far as computing the value of the donations is concerned.
  • One strange thing that I did observe was that, on October 7 and 8, assorted donations were released without being monetized.
  • As the donations are also tracked by area, it might be useful to compare this record of releases to situation maps, such as the Typhoon Ondoy Situation Map, in order to determine how strategic the DSWD is in its relief operations.

As the first column of the above document indicates, I tried to come up with a broad classification system for the recipients of the donations so as to be able to get a rough picture of how the distribution went. (I assumed that “VIBES Inc.” is a charity of some kind, but I could not find any information about it.) This is the resulting chart:

A significant majority (80.89%) of the released donations went from the NROC to the various field offices of the DSWD, which should be reassuring. I do not know, however, why PhP774,528.00 worth of noodles was released to an unnamed entity—is this a clerical error?

Because Cabral vowed a “politico-proof” the distribution of relief goods, a statement that was later questioned by the Inquirer in its editorial last Sunday, it might be interesting to see the list of government officials to whom goods were released:

Here is the corresponding chart:

At the risk of sounding utterly ignorant, a question I find pertinent is: Who is Atty. Maramba, and in what capacity or under whose authority is he or she receiving donations?