Some senators sense funds were pocketed in 2020 purchase of ‘overpriced’ PPEs
MANILA, Philippines — Some senators suspect that funds may have been pocketed in the procurement of “overpriced” personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies at the height of the pandemic last year.
“At the very least may kapabayaan pero halos makukumbinsi na ako na mayroon ding pangungupit na posible talagang nangyari,” Senator Risa Hontiveros told reporters in an online interview on Monday when asked if she sees the possibility of funds being pocketed in the purchase of these items.
(At the very least there’s negligence but I am nearly convinced that funds may have been pocketed.)
She said that this may be possible since the firms contracted by the Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service (DBM-PS) during the period of April and May 2020 offered PPE sets at an average cost nearly double that of the maximum price imposed by the government at the time.
“Sigurado. Sigurado na talagang may nakinabang dito. Sobrang obvious, di katanggap-tanggap,” Senator Imee Marcos, for her part, said in a separate online interview.
(For sure. For sure someone benefited from this. It’s so obvious, this is unacceptable.)
‘Double the cost’
Hontiveros noted that the DBM-PS awarded 11 contracts for PPE sets during that time, most of which were to foreign firms.
“Noong dalawang buwang iyon ang mismong price freeze na inoobserbahan ng DOH (Department of Health), na ipinataw ng DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) ay mga P900 plus lamang per PPE set,” she said.
(During those two months, the DOH is observing a price freeze that was imposed by the DTI, that each PPE set should only cost P900 plus.)
“Pero ang average na contract price na in-award sa 11 ito at pinakamalaking contract price na iyon ay sa Pharmally [Pharmaceutical Corp.] ay ang average ay halos doble mga P1,800 plus,” she added.
(But the average cost in the contracts awarded to the 11 with the highest contract price going to Pharmally, the average is nearly double the cost, P1,800 plus.)
She said Pharmally was awarded a P3.8-billion contract for the procurement of PPE sets.
Hontiveros said that the DBM-PS has a lot of options in terms of Filipino manufactures which it could tap to supply the needed PPE sets.
“Ang daming mga Filipino PPE manufacturers na mga miyembro ng CONWEP (Confederation of Wearable Exporters of the Philippines) at saka CPMP, Coalition of Philippine Manufacturers of PPEs ay nagretrofit na ng kanilang production line on the request of government at nag-offer ng medical grade pasado sa DOH standards at di hamak na mas murang PPEs,” the senator said.
(There are a lot of Filipino PPE manufacturers which are members of the CONWEP and the CPMP, they retrofitted their production line on the request of the government and offered medical grade supplies that passed the DOH standards at a cheaper price.)
“Pero ang daing nila hanggang ngayon, hindi sila naawardan ng kontrata kundi itong 11 na halos lahat ay mga dayuhang kumpanya,” she added.
(But they are saying that until now, they have yet to be awarded with contracts unlike these 11 who are mostly foreign firms.)
Aside from PPE sets, the DBM-PS also awarded Pharmally contracts for the purchase of masks, face shields as well as test kits.
In total, Pharmally bagged P8.6 billion in contracts, senators learned during a Senate hearing last week. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1480011/p8-7-b-med-supply-deals-went-to-tiny-company
Senators had grilled former DBM-PS head Christopher Lao over the contracts awarded to Pharmally, which was only several months old when it was able to win government procurement deals worth over P8 billion.
They also raised concern over the “lack” of due diligence on the part of the DBM-PS under Lao for it failed to check on the records of the said firm, which apparently submitted “fake” addresses in its registration document.
But during the same hearing, Lao said his team did the “best” it could to ensure that the price of supplies being procured at the time was the “most affordable.”
“In fact, if you base it on the previous procurement, mura na naman siya. Compare it to present procurement, mahal siya. Kasi, the present we have now, is a lot cheaper compared to what we procured last year,” he had said.
“Mahirap kasi…there is no history to compare the scenario we were in because it is the first time, I think in my generation, I have never experienced a pandemic. We were just reacting during that time on what we had. Our capabilities are limited, our capacity is limited, our personnel skills are limited,” he added.
“Based on that, we acted on it. It’s a judgement call, either we can buy or we cannot buy. Either we get it now or we don’t get it now. That’s the only thing I have in my mind,” Lao further said.
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