Overpricing of P1B suspected in 2020 purchase of face masks, shields
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Richard Gordon sees “corruption” in the procurement of allegedly overpriced face masks and shields, with Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon flagging a possible overpricing of over P1 billion.
“Katiwalian talaga, totoong-totoo. Kaduda-duda…overpricing at finavor ang ilan,” Gordon said in a Teleradyo interview Thursday.
(There’s corruption. It’s really there. It’s suspicious, the overpricing and favoring of some firms.)
During a separate interview with dzBB, the senator said he had no doubt that charges would be filed against those accused of overpricing.
Gordon led Wednesday’s hearing of the Senate blue ribbon committee during which senators questioned the cost of masks and shields purchased by the Department of Health (DOH) through the Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service (DBM-PS) in 2020.
As for Gordon, he was “astounded” to learn that the masks and shields cost up to P27.72 and P120, respectively. The Commission on Audit (COA) had previously flagged these purchases.
A DOH official said, however, that when the procurement was being undertaken, a suggested retail price (SRP) had not been set for these items, which were also relatively limited.
But some of the senators were not convinced.
Drilon cited, for example, a memorandum issued by the DOH on September 30 last year setting an SRP range from P2 to P5 for face masks, as well as P26 to P50 for face shields.
In a statement Thursday, Drilon, citing the COA report, said the DBM procured around P113.9 million pieces of face masks from different suppliers worth a total of P1.66 billion.
When compared to the P5 SRP of the DOH, the cost should have been only around P569.52 million, which Drilon said shows a possible overpricing of around P1 billion.
The minority leader also suspected a possible overpricing of face shields amounting to nearly P100 million.
Again citing the COA report, he said the DBM-PS procured 1,317,711 pieces of face shields at P120 each or for a sum of P158.13 million.
Compared to DOH’s SRP for a face shield, the total price should only be around P65.89 million per Drilon’s calculation.
Senator Imee Marcos, in a statement also on Thursday, further questioned why the DOH supposedly tried to “sell” these face masks and shields to local government units (LGUs).
“Sabi ng DOH pinamimigay nila sa LGU—sabi ng [governors] and mayors, binebenta ng DOH sa kanila, na ‘di nila kayang bilhin at ang mamahal nga,” claimed Marcos, who was a former local executive.
The Senate blue ribbon committee is set to resume on Aug. 25, with senators covering more topics on the DOH’s handling of funds.
Drilon urged resigned Undersecretary Christopher Lao, who was said to have headed the DBM-PS when these items were procured, to participate in the investigation.
Lao, the minority leader said, could shed light on the circumstances surrounding the allegedly overpriced face masks and shields.
“He leaves behind him so many questionable transactions which we will dig into. We will not leave any stone unturned in uncovering what could be a possible overpricing in procurement service,” Drilon said.
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