Lao admits possible ‘negligence’ in 2020 purchase of masks, shields
MANILA, Philippines — Former Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service (DBM-PS) head Christopher Lloyd Lao on Friday admitted possible negligence in the purchase of allegedly overpriced face masks and shields due to “lack” of time, resources, and connection to find the cheapest suppliers.
“When you say that there might be negligence or we were not able to exhaustively look for the cheapest supplier, there might be a possibility given the scenario that we lack time, we lack the resources, the connection during that time, that might be a possibility,” Lao told the Senate blue ribbon committee.
Lao’s admission came during the questioning of Senator Francis Pangilinan, who pointed out the differences in prices of the masks and shields procured by the DBM-PS and the Philippine Red Cross (PRC).
“It is also possible, Mr. Lao, that you were negligent. It’s possible. I’m not saying you were but the possibility that you were negligent, that Red Cross is more circumspect and was able to purchase it at P5 (per mask) while the government — I don’t know, maybe because of negligence — bought it five times more expensive,” Pangilinan said.
In a hearing last Aug. 18, senators questioned the allegedly overpriced face masks and face shields purchased by the Department of Health in 2020 through the DBM-PS at P27.72 and P120 per piece, respectively.
Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the PRC, had said he was “astounded” by the pricing of the procured face masks and shields.
He said the PRC was able to buy masks at P5 apiece and shields at P15 each at the time.
Lao, during Friday’s hearing, surmised that the PRC “has a very good network.”
“They have ties with [the] International Red Cross, especially in China, so they have faster communication,” he told senators.
“When we procured the items initially we were able to buy the face masks at P16 which was on March 20. Then on April 6, we bought it at P27.49 then April 14 at P22.50, April 16 at P22.50, April 20 at 22, April 27 at P13,” he said.
“I believe the difference is that the Red Cross has wider access during the time compared to us,” he added.
But Pangilinan pointed out that the DBM-PS should have been more diligent in searching for suppliers who can offer these items for a cheaper price.
“Maybe if there was a more diligent search, maybe if there was a more diligent process, we could have brought down the price of a P27 face mask and a P120 face shield,” the senator said.
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