Ping hits DOH purchase of pricier virus test machines; Duque has an explanation
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday took the Department of Health (DOH) to task for purchasing medical equipment twice as expensive as those bought by private groups for testing individuals for the new coronavirus disease.
In a hearing held via videoconference by the Senate committee of the whole, Lacson, who had pointed out the pricing difference in an earlier Inquirer report, said the DOH procured 10 nucleic acid extractor machines at P4 million each.
He said the same machines were bought by Project Ark, a private sector initiative pushing rapid antibody testing, from Sansure at only P1.75 million each.
The senator also noted that the DOH bought a swabbing system at $32 each when it is commonly sold at $16 each.
“Why is the government buying (items) that are more expensive that those purchased by the private sector?” Lacson asked Health Secretary Francisco Duque III during the hearing.
“They are expensive. If Project ARK was able to use the (machine) for testing for just P1.75 million each, why will you buy (another) for P4 million each?” he added.
Duque referred the matter to Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao, officer in charge of the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service, which facilitated the purchase of the medical supplies for the DOH.
Lao acknowledged that the price of the extraction machines procured by his office was more than double compared to that used by Project Ark, as the latter bought the Chinese-made Sansure machines.
He said the DOH and its attached agency, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), particularly requested the US-made Thermo Science King Fisher.
To this, Lacson replied: “I cannot understand (why) DOH or RITM would tell you what brand you should buy.”
The government procurement law, he said, prohibited state agencies from buying supplies with specific brands.
“That should be answered (by Duque),” Lao said.
Duque explained that they opted to purchase the US-made machines since these were compatible with the existing equipment of the RITM and DOH.
“If we buy Sansure, it will be incompatible with our laboratory equipment,” the health secretary said.
Lacson said he found Duque’s explanation wanting and that he would further question the DOH purchases when the Senate hearing resumes on Wednesday.
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