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Duque Defends COA-Flagged Transfer of P42 Billion to Budget Dept

Senators probe COA's findings on DOH.
by Erwin Colcol
A day ago
Photo/s: Jerome Ascaño

Health Sec. Francisco Duque III on Wednesday defended before senators the transfer of some P42 billion in COVID-19 funds to the procurement service of the DBM (PS-DBM), which state auditors flagged for failure to follow procedure.

Duque said the Department of Health initially procured personal protective equipment to replenish the country's supply following the eruption of Taal Volcano in January last year and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic the month after.

However, due to the growing demand for these items, the DOH had to enlist the help of other procuring agencies like the DBM procurement service to get more supply, he said.

"Yung PS-DBM kasi may kakayahan silang mag-angkat ng supply from international suppliers. Pangalawa, ang DOH talagang very limited ang kanilang Bids and Awards Committee to process all the procurement requirement of the DOH," Duque said.

"Kaya ang approach namin is whole of government, kaya naman minabuti namin na humingi ng tulong sa PS-DBM dahil kulang na kulang din ang supplies," he added.

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In its 2020 audit report, the Commission on Audit said the lack of MOA and other supporting documents in the transfer of P42 billion COVID-19 funds posed questions on the regularity of these transactions.

The commission also flagged PS-DBM over "overpriced" face masks and shields, which it said were brought at P27.22 per piece and P120 per piece, respectively.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the implementing rules and regulations of the procurement law requires a MOA when government offices seek the help of procurement agencies in purchasing items.

Former DBM USec. Lloyd Christopher Lao, who was the head of PS-DBM when the transfer was made, said there was no need for a MOA when the items being procured are considered common supplies.

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He claimed that the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) came out with a resolution declaring face masks and face shields as common supplies.

Lao added that the PS-DBM initially bought the face masks at P27.72 per piece back in April 2020, but when the supply stabilized, they were able to procure it at P1.49 per piece.

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But Sen. Panfilo Lacson presented a GPPB resolution dated March 2020 indicating that face shields were not among common supply items.

"With or without MOA, or with or without GPPB resolution to that effect, PS-DBM was not authorized at that time to procure face shields because wala sa listahan," he said.

Drilon said prudence dictates that a MOA should be undertaken in the transfer of funds so that disbursements can be traced.

Duque, in response, said that while there was a documented agency procurement request for these transactions, they would still come up with MOA soon following the recommendations of the COA.

The Senate blue ribbon panel was conducting a motu proprio investigation into the "deficiencies" flagged by COA on the DOH's use of COVID-19 funds, which "contributed to the challenges encountered and missed opportunities by the department during the time of state of calamity/national emergency."

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