Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday questioned the allegedly overpriced equipment in the ambulance units the Department of Health bought for healthcare facilities.
Lacson, who has earned the reputation of being the budget watchdog, earlier quizzed the DOH on its purchase of ambulance units worth P2.5 million each when other local government units were able to buy the same model for only P1.5 million per unit.
Upon further review of DOH documents, Lacson said he found that the bid prices of some of the equipment that came with the ambulance units were higher their retail prices.
Lacson said his team checked one by one the retail prices of the brands that the DOH specified for the equipment and compared them with the bid prices. He presented their findings during the budget briefing of the DOH.
He cited, for one, the two cellphone units with a retail price of P7,998, but the DOH's bid price was P30,000. The dashboard camera for the ambulance only cost P4,500 in the market, but the DOH’s bid price was P10,500.
The biggest price difference among the items presented was for the automatic external defibrillator, with a retail price of only P96,500 but the DOH's bid price was P165,000, which means it is P68,000 more expensive.
Lacson said the equipment that came with the ambulance units did not match the number required by the DOH. While the department specified 30 equipment for each ambulance unit, some LGUs only received 21.
"Are you not going to conduct an investigation doon sa supplier because it seems na-shortchange yung LGU?" Lacson asked Health Sec. Francisco Duque III.
"These are the things that we want to be explained by the department para hindi na maulit.... because these are public funds," he added.
Duque said he asked his staff to check the items and see if they were indeed overpriced.
"Ito ay tinitignan sa ngayon, but rest assured that we will have this investigated kasi nga ito ay public funds and we don't want monies to be used [without] maximizing the value especially that these are scarce resources," he said.
Lacson said he was not accusing the DOH of jacking up the prices, but he reminded the agency to be "judicious" in spending.
The DOH is also facing investigation before the Senate blue ribbon committee over the deficiencies in its management of P67 billion COVID-19 funds.