SolGen tapped to review DOH contracts
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) should involve Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra and his lawyers in vetting future purchase contracts for bivalent COVID-19 vaccines, Sen. Francis Tolentino said on Sunday.
Tolentino said this was in deference to the result of the preliminary inquiry that the Senate blue ribbon committee, which he chairs, conducted on Dec. 14 regarding the nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) that the government had previously entered into with vaccine manufacturers. Such an arrangement with foreign entities should be consistent with the country’s procurement laws, he stressed.
“The OSG (Office of the Solicitor General) should be able to check if the NDAs [that government may sign] are in order,” Tolentino said in a radio interview without making any conclusion on the NDAs the government submitted last week. “The blue ribbon committee will resume its investigation to check if the NDAs are always needed or if the government has been disadvantaged,” he said.
Tolentino also disclosed that the DOH had finally submitted “unedited” copies of the NDAs to the Commission on Audit (COA).
State auditors had earlier told the Senate that they could not conduct a thorough audit of the government’s vaccine procurement program as the DOH only furnished them with redacted copies of the contracts for the purchase of vaccines.
During his confirmation hearing on Nov. 29, COA Chair Gamaliel Cordoba claimed that former Health Secretary Francisco Duque III withheld the documents, an allegation that Duque denied.
“So we have already accomplished two things after our preliminary hearing,” Tolentino said. “First, the OSG will be involved in reviewing the contracts… Second, the COA has received the documents they had requested [from the DOH].”
He said the committee would also examine the government’s vaccine storage policy after Maria Rosario Vergeire, officer in charge of the DOH, disclosed that about 44 million doses, amounting to at least P15.6 billion, had gone to waste.
The DOH, he said, should improve its storage and handling procedures before buying bivalent vaccines, or jabs intended to target two COVID-19 strains.
Vergeire had earlier said that the government may start the procurement of bivalent vaccines during the first quarter of 2023.
DOH aims to have bivalent vaccines available by Q1 2023
Gov’t urged to partner with private hospitals on bivalent vaccines
What to know about ‘bivalent vaccines’ that target Omicron
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.