Ex-DBM exec Lao: ‘Overpriced’ face masks, face shields ‘cheapest’ at the time
MANILA, Philippines — Former head of the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) Lloyd Christopher Lao on Friday defended the procurement of face masks and face shields that are now questioned for being “overpriced,” explaining it was the “cheapest” they could find at that time.
Lao broke his silence after his name surfaced at a Senate inquiry into the purchase of face masks and face shields priced at P27.72 and P120 per piece, respectively, in early 2020 which was flagged by the Commission on Audit.
“Actually if you look at it, pag sinabi mo mahal yang P27, yes mahal yan. But during that time, that was one of the cheapest. Because face masks at that time were sold at around P30 to P40,” Lao said in a televised briefing.
“Ang face shield during that time, it was the first time people knew about face shields. It was my first time knowing about face shields. It was being sold at P250, P300, P400. Ang mahal. So when we bidded it, most of the bidders bidding it at around P400 and P300 but there’s one company who bidded it at P120. That’s the cheapest during that time,” he went on.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said there may be overpricing of around P1 billion in the purchase of face masks and face shields bought by the Department of Health (DOH) through the PS-DBM.
Lao also explained that the purchase of face masks and face shields was transferred to the PS-DBM as these items were classified as common supplies which are not only used by the DOH but by other agencies as well amid the pandemic.
“Hindi po nilipat sa DBM ang pera. The money was sourced out from DBM then transferred to DOH. However, [the] DOH transferred it to PS-DBM, the procurement service of the Department of Budget and Management. It was transferred to PS-DBM when the items you are buying are considered common supplies,” Lao explained.
“During the time of the pandemic, it’s not only DOH that was in need of buying the face mask, the face shield, alcohol, the things we need for protection against COVID. So it was classified by the chief GPB, government procurement policy board, as common supplies,” he went on.
Regarding the absence of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the transfer of funds from the DOH to PS-DBM, Lao said this document is not needed if the items being purchased are just for “common” use.
“Nagtatanong sila bakit walang MOA. There will be a requirement of a memorandum of agreement if the item that a certain agency would request PS-DBM to procure is considered non-common use. If it’s considered common use, the agency requesting PS-DBM to procure does not need a memorandum of agreement,” Lao said.
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