Procurement of ‘overpriced’ PPEs may be scrutinized by Congress
MANILA, Philippines — The procurement of alleged overpriced personal protective equipment (PPE) sets can be scrutinized by the congressional oversight panel tasked to review the government’s response against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis in the country.
“The oversight committee can examine the allegation,” Senator Joel Villanueva said in a message to reporters on Wednesday.
“We know that the global demand for these equipment are increasing, and naturally, their prices will increase and will be greater than what they used to be before the pandemic. But it is also worth examining to see if the price is reasonable,” he added.
Villanueva broached this idea after Senator Grace Poe on Tuesday questioned why the Department of Health (DOH) purchased “overpriced” PPE sets when cheaper but still good quality ones are available in the market.
“A little penny pinching of the government still goes a long way to stretch our budget and help provide for all our people, especially those in the frontlines and the most vulnerable like the no work, no pay sector,” Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, went on.
Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Congress, as well as the Filipino public, may no longer be “forgiving or nonchalant” if there is “convincing evidence” that corruption was indeed involved.
“If proven by convincing evidence, and he (President) refuses to take action as in past cases involving corruption in the Bureau of Customs, (Bureau of Corrections) and even PhilHealth and DOH, considering that this is a different level of greed and corruption especially at a time of national crisis, Congress as well as the Filipino people may not be forgiving or nonchalant anymore,” Lacson said.
Members of the joint oversight congressional committee include Lacson, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Pia Cayetano and Christopher “Bong” Go.
Also part of the oversight panel are House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Jr, ACT-CIS partylist Rep. and appropriations committee chair Eric Go Yap, and Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante, Jr.
The said committee is tasked to review the President’s weekly report on the implementation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act to ensure that the extra powers granted to him are being appropriately used and not abused.
The DOH has since defended its purchase of the one million PPE sets which cost the department P1.8 billion at P1,800 each.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire explained the sets purchased by the DOH included N95 masks, overalls, gloves, head cover, shoe covers, goggles, surgical mask, and surgical gowns.
Vergeire also assured that all PPEs bought by DOH underwent the proper procurement process through the procurement service of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
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