COA special audit on Pharmally deals being finalized; report out by March
MANILA, Philippines — A Commission on Audit (COA) special audit team is now finalizing its report on the government’s pandemic-related supply deals with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., which may be released by March this year.
COA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo gave updates on the status of the special audit on Pharmally deals during Wednesday’s hearing of a Commission on Appointments (CA) panel deliberating on the nomination of a new COA commissioner.
“They’re (special audit team) already finalizing the audit observations and findings and preparing the audit highlights,” Aguinaldo said, in response to queries posed by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.
“The next step would be to schedule an exit conference primarily with PS-DBM (Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management)…between the first two weeks of February,” he added.
“The audit highlights will probably be finalized by the end of February but the final report, probably March, would be a reasonable period,” he further said.
In September last year, Aguinaldo told the Senate blue ribbon committee that the special audit may be finished by the end of 2021.
“What I did mention before during the blue ribbon committee hearing was that the special audit team has been given 90 days. But I candidly said that it’s unlikely that they will be able to finish it in 90 days, it will probably be longer because of the voluminous documents, restrictions amid the pandemic because our auditors also conduct interviews,” the COA chairman said.
“They don’t just look at documents, they actually conduct interviews not only with government officials but also with private individuals involved in these transactions,” he added.
Aguinaldo said he sent a letter to the blue ribbon committee last Jan. 24, citing reasons why the special audit was not finished by the end of 2021.
Among these reasons include mobility restrictions as well as belated submission of documents from the PS-DBM, the Department of Health, and the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
The special audit team also reached out to private entities, which did not immediately responded to the COA team.
“They (special audit team) also contacted the supposed bidders or those who could have actually supplied some of these goods, medyo nahirapan din sila to get responses from them,” Aguinaldo said.
Further, Aguinaldo said the COA team had to factor in in their report new information that would come out during the hearings of the blue ribbon committee.
“The reason also that it dragged on a bit, one thing we noticed is during each blue ribbon committee hearing, there was always some new information or evidence that would come out that they would now have to factor in in their discussion kaya siguro na-delay rin ng konti because of that,” he said.
The special audit will still need to be reviewed. But Aguinaldo assured this review will not derail the release of the final report.
“We do have a quality assurance process within the commission so that it’s not just them coming out with the report and issuing it, it has to go through that kind of review,” he said.
“Usually ang fraud audit report or special audit report are no longer reviewed by the commission proper. Normally it’s the chair who issues the transmittal and in past audit reports that we’ve issued, we only do a cursory review of the findings…we look at consistency between what they found and what the evidence presented,” he explained.
“It’s really more of a legal review of the conclusions they came up with. It shouldn’t derail the transmittal of the report,” he added.
The blue ribbon committee has been investigating the government’s transactions with Pharmally, which bagged over P8.6 billion in supply contracts in 2020.
Some senators saw alleged favoritism in the awarding of contracts to the firm as they doubted the financial capacity of Pharmally since it was only established in 2019 with a small capital of P625,000 when it secured the medical supply deals.
Pharmally chairman and president Huang Tzu Yen has previously denied that they were favored in any way in the government’s procurement of medical supplies, saying the small company has been “unfairly prejudged.
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