Senators seek special audit of gov’t COVID-19 spending
MANILA, Philippines — Several senators are urging state auditors to conduct a special review of all government COVID-19 spending under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
Senator Risa Hontivers, along with six other senators, issued the call through Senate Resolution No. 479, which urged the Commission on Audit (COA) to present its findings before Congress starts its deliberations on the proposed 2021 national budget.
Other signatories of the resolution include Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Senate finance committee chair Senator Sonny Angara and Senators Panfilo Lacson, Francis Pangilinan and Leila de Lima.
“Hindi dapat pinagkakakitaan ang COVID-19 crisis (No one should earn money from the COVID-19 crisis). We are anticipating massive allocations to address the health, economic and social impacts of COVID-19. It is of critical importance that there be audit findings to guide legislators in our exercise of the power of the purse,” Hontiveros said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Congress early this year, through the Bayanihan Act, gave the government comprehensive powers, including the power to re-align and allocate billions of taxpayers’ money to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Kailangan nating malaman kung ang tulong ba ay napunta para sa dapat tulungan (We need to know if funding really went to those in need),” she added.
The Bayanihan Act, which expired in June, allowed the government to swiftly procure commodities, facilities, utilities and services deemed necessary for the 2019 coronavirus disease response without the required bidding process as laid out in the Government Procurement Reform Act.
But various procurements made have been marred by allegations of overpricing, Hontiveros noted.
She cited the P4-million price tag the automated nucleic acid extractors procured by the government against the P1.75 million purchased by the private sector; PPE sets worth P 1,800 each when the market price ranges from P400 to P1,000; as well as the importation of “more expensive” RT-PCR test kits from China and Korea while “cheaper Philippine-made ones are gathering dust in laboratories.”
Hontiveros’ resolution also cited the purchase of allegedly overpriced PPE by the Procurement Services of the Department of Budget and Management [PS-DBM] and Philippine International Trading Corporation [PITC] “while many health workers and frontliners have fallen ill from the lack of adequate protective gear.”
“This health crisis should not allow us to relax our accountability measures. The people should be able to trust the government that no one is lining their pockets with taxpayers’ money,” she said.
To date, Philippines health officials have confirmed 83,673 COVID-19 cases in the country. Of the number, 26,617 have already recovered while 1,947 succumbed to the disease.
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