DOH also asked DBM to procure COVID-19 jabs, but got turned down
MANILA, Philippines — Instead of directly procuring COVID-19 vaccines, the Department of Health (DOH) had requested the Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service (DBM-PS), which has been linked to alleged “overpriced” purchases, to procure for them, House lawmakers learned Friday.
During a House hearing into the health department’s use of pandemic funds which was earlier flagged by state auditors, DOH Undersecretary Carol Taiño confirmed that the department asked the DBM-PS to purchase COVID-19 vaccines, aside from the procurement of face masks, face shields and other medical supplies.
“Yes, we have also requested the PS-DBM to procure COVID-19 vaccine on behalf of the DOH,” Taiño said.
This, after Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate inquired if the DOH, in January this year, requested to the Government Procurement Policy Board that anti-COVID shots be also included in the list of commonly-used supplies, which would enable the DOH to procure such items through the DBM-PS.
Following Taiño’s confirmation, Zarate then inquired if there were any funds transferred to the DBM-PS for the procurement of the vaccines.
Both DOH Finance Director Rowena Lora and Director Paul Guimbarda of the DOH Procurement Service said no funds were transferred to the DBM-PS for any procurement of vaccines.
DBM-PS officer-in-charge Jasonmer Uayan also told lawmakers that they turned down the request of the DOH to procure the vaccines for them, citing its “limitations in terms of manpower, storage requirement, plus the technical know-how.”
“While it is true that there was a request that the vaccine procurement be undertaken by [DBM-PS], we actually declined considering we do not have the capability to handle the nationwide rollout of the vaccines,” he said.
Zarate raised his questions after lawmakers quizzed the DOH over the transfer of P42 billion to the DBM-PS for the procurement of test kits and medical supplies for the country’s COVID-19 response.
Senators also recently questioned the allegedly overpriced face masks and shields procured by the DOH through the DBM-PS in 2020.
This is not the first time that the two line agencies clashed in matters connected to the dispensation of pandemic funds.
Earlier this week, DOH and DBM pointed fingers over the difficulties in the disbursement of the allowances to be received by the country’s healthcare workers.
DOH Assistant Secretary Maylene Beltran said that the DBM only released the funds for the special risk allowance of healthcare workers on June 25, giving them only five days to disburse it since Bayanihan 2 was set to expire June 30.
‘Conflict of interest’
Zarate said letting the DBM-PS procure items for agencies can lead to a “conflict of interest.”
“Isang ahensya na nagtatalaga ng budget, in fact, very powerful ang DBM…tapos [This is an agency that released the budget, in fact, the DBM is very powerful and then] eventually a big chunk of the budget that they approve will go back to them in the form of procurement,” the lawmaker said.
“Something is wrong there. At the very least there’s a conflict of interest,” he added.
He then asked the DOH why it opted to make procurements for test kits and other medical items through the DBM-PS.
In response, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that the DOH did try to procure on their own but said there were no available bidders at the time due to limited supply.
“Prior to the onset of the pandemic, yung DOH had initially processed the procurement of ng mga PPE (personal protective equipment) such as N95 masks at iba pa pong mga PPE items to replace our inventory na naubos sa Taal Volcano eruption in Jan. 2020,” Duque said.
(Prior to the onset of the pandemic, the DOH had initially processed the procurement of PPEs such as N95 masks and other PPE items to replace our inventory which ran out amid the Taal Volcano eruption in Jan. 2020.)
“Nung Feb. 2020, nagumpisa yung COVID-19, the DOH needed to augment the supply… We tried actually tried to bid for COVID-19 response items through our own bids and awards committee, unfortunately, po wala nang mga bidders due to very limited supply and yung mga local supplier ay ‘di na po nila matugunan yung kinakailangang bulto,” he added.
(In Feb. 2020, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DOH needed to augment the supply…We tried actually to bid for COVID-19 response items through our own bids and awards committee. Unfortunately, there are no available bidders due to very limited supply and the local suppliers are not capable of supplying the volume we need.)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.