Senators ask DOH if it made ‘double payment’ for face shields
MANILA, Philippines — Senators on Tuesday were left puzzled on whether the face shields purchased by the Department of Health (DOH) from the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM-PS) were the same ones it bought using its own funds.
“Isn’t that double payment? You transferred money and then you will buy again [the same supplies] using your own funds? It is a case of double payment,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said, speaking partly in Filipino, during a hearing of the Senate blue ribbon committee.
In 2020, the DOH transferred P42 billion to the DBM-PS for the purchase of pandemic response goods, such as personal protective equipment sets, testing kits, face masks, and face shields.
Under questioning of Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Health Undersecretary Carol Taiño confirmed that the DOH procured face shields at P124 per piece from the virtual store of the DBM-PS.
Drilon then asked if these face shields were the same ones purchased by the DBM-PS from the Philippine Blue Cross Biotech Corp. in April last year.
Taiño could not ascertain the “source of the procurement” for the face shields.
At this point, Drilon turned to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to repeatedly ask for clarification whether the DOH transferred the P42 billion to the DBM-PS to make pandemic supply purchases on their behalf or for the PS-DBM to build up its inventory from which government hospitals can get needed supplies.
In response, Duque said the transfer was meant for the Procurement Service to make purchases on behalf of the DOH.
“Doesn’t that bother you?” Drilon said.
“It was sold to you at P124 [per piece] using the money of DOH. Profits were really made here. Tubong lugaw [a Filipino phrase literally meaning ‘porridge profit’ — that is, a big profit on a small investment],” he went on, speaking partly in Filipino. ‘There is something wrong with it and they made P4 in this. And there’s even a commission using the budget and funds allocated by Congress.”
“DOH simply asked PS-DBM to purchase for the DOH and yet… the DOH paid P4 more than the P120 [per piece] that also came from the DOH budget,” he added.
However, Duque said he had no information if the face shields procured by the DOH were the same ones purchased by the Procurement Service using the funds transferred to it by the DOH.
“What was the budget of DBM-PS in 2020? I assure you that they don’t have that kind of money to be able to purchase P42 billion worth of common supplies and equipment, which are medical equipment,” Drilon pointed out.
“You can’t say it’s from the budget of the DBM-PS. That’s from the budget of the DOH,” he added.
“I beg to disagree,” Duque answered. “I will look into this, give me a little more time to verify this.”
The minority leader stressed that the DOH should explain this matter.
“If you don’t, you have a problem,” Drilon said.
During the same hearing, Senate President Vicente Sotto III posed a similar query. He asked whether regional hospitals were also buying medical items from the PS-DBM.
Sotto cited a previous statement made by Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Michael Aguinaldo during a House hearing last week, indicating that a regional hospital opted not to buy pandemic response goods from the DBM-PS due to higher costs.
“Why buy from DBM-PS using the money of DOH?” Sotto asked.
“They should give [the items] for free to the DOH and regional hospitals. Why did they have to buy?” he added.
According to Duque, it would be best to determine the details of the purchases made by the regional hospitals if they did indeed procure from the DBM-PS store.
“The DBM-PS has like a store. It has its own supplies for sale,” the health chief said.
DBM-PS officer-in-charge Jasonmer Uayan, meanwhile, clarified that the DBM-PS would only sell supplies it procured from its own funds.
The DBM-PS was created to procure in bulk common-used items in government offices so that they could be purchased at cheaper prices.
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