Hontiveros to DOH: Waive NDAs, disclose COVID-19 vaccine cost
MANILA, Philippines —Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday called on the Department of Health (DOH) to end the “unnecessary secrecy” surrounding the pricing of government-purchased COVID-19 vaccines on Tuesday.
Hontiveros encouraged the DOH to waive its non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with vaccine producers and suppliers, simply calling them “useless and have outlived their purpose since the issue of ‘price competition’ is now over.”
“It is now simply a violation of the public’s right to know how our money was spent. NDAs should no longer stand in the way of accountability and transparency,” she said in a statement.
She said the waste of at least 44 million vaccines should be reason enough to reveal their true cost.
READ: Bid to lift secrecy veils on COVID vaccine costs starts as 44M doses are wasted
“There is too much unnecessary secrecy surrounding this,” Hontiveros said. “Hindi naman dapat ituring na state secret ang presyo ng bakuna dahil pera ng bayan ang ginamit para ipambili nito. Pinipilay lang ng mga NDA na ito ang mandato ng Commission on Audit (COA) na usisain kung nakasulit ba tayo sa bilyun-bilyong pisong inilabas natin noong panahon ng pandemya.”
(The cost of the vaccines should not be treated as a state secret because public funds were used to purchase it. These NDAs paralyze the COA from fulfilling its mandate of judging whether the billions of money we spent during the height of the pandemic were worth it.)
She renewed her call to release all the information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine procurement of the government, firmly urging the private sector not to hide behind the NDA provisions of government contracts and undermine the constitution.
“There is no reason for this to be done behind closed doors. We deserve to know how every centavo was spent, lalo na ngayong panahon ng resesyon. Managot ang dapat managot, at huwag magtago sa likod ng NDA,” the senator stressed.
(There is no reason for this to be done behind closed doors. We deserve to know how every centavo was spent, especially during a recession. Whoever needs to be held accountable must be held accountable. Don’t hide behind the NDA.)
While the DOH has turned over initial documents to COA for its audit, Hontiveros pointed out that they only submitted loan agreements with the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and those with limited permissions from some vaccine manufacturers such as Pfizer and AstraZeneca.
“What about the agreements with other vaccine manufacturers like Sinovac? Bulto-bultong bakuna pa naman mula sa Sinovac ang binili ng nakaraang administrasyon para sa national vaccination program. Paano magsasagawa ng complete audit ang COA kung patuloy na magtatago ang mga kompanya sa likod ng NDA clause ng kontrata?” she pressed.
(The former administration bought bulks of vaccines from Sinovac for its national vaccination program. How can the COA conduct a complete audit if companies keep hiding behind the NDA clause of the contracts?)
She warned about this setting an “alarming” precedent for companies evading transparency as it transacts with the government.
“Baka sa susunod na pandemya mauulit na naman ito, at posibleng maabuso (If another pandemic comes, this may happen again and may possibly be abused),” Hontiveros added.
Since the pandemic’s start, several lawmakers have prodded the COA to urgently come up with its audit report on the government’s procurement of massive volumes of vaccines for the virus.
The state auditors, through Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, have said it is willing to use its “subpoena powers” to “legally compel the departments involved to submit documents and to testify.”
COA ‘willing to use’ subpoena powers to audit purchase of COVID-19 vaccines
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