MANILA, Philippines — Instead of directly procuring COVID-19 vaccines, the Department of Health (DOH) had requested the Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service (DBM-PS), which has been linked to alleged “overpriced” purchases, to procure for them, House lawmakers learned Friday.
During a House hearing into the health department’s use of pandemic funds which was earlier flagged by state auditors, DOH Undersecretary Carol Taiño confirmed that the department asked the DBM-PS to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.
“Yes, we have also requested the PS-DBM to procure COVID-19 vaccine on behalf of the DOH,” Taiño said.
This, after Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate inquired if the DOH, in January this year, requested to the Government Procurement Policy Board that anti-COVID shots be also included in the list of commonly-used supplies, which would enable the DOH to procure such items through the DBM-PS.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate. Screengrab from House of Representatives livestreaming
Following Taiño’s confirmation, Zarate then inquired if there were any funds transferred to the DBM-PS for the procurement of the vaccines.
Both DOH Finance Director Rowena Lora and Director Paul Guimbarda of the DOH Procurement Service said no funds were transferred to the DBM-PS for any procurement of vaccines.
DBM-PS officer-in-charge Jasonmer Uayan also told lawmakers that they turned down the request of the DOH to procure the vaccines for them, citing its “limitations in terms of manpower, storage requirement, plus the technical know-how.”
DBM-PS officer-in-charge Jasonmer Uayan. Screengrab from House of Representatives livestreaming
“While it is true that there was a request that the vaccine procurement be undertaken by [DBM-PS], we actually declined considering we do not have the capability to handle the nationwide rollout of the vaccines,” he said.
Zarate raised his questions after
lawmakers quizzed the DOH
over the transfer of P42 billion to the DBM-PS for the procurement of test kits and medical supplies for the country’s COVID-19 response.
Senators also recently questioned the allegedly
overpriced face masks and shields
procured by the DOH through the DBM-PS.
This is not the first time that the two line agencies clashed in matters connected to the dispensation of pandemic funds.
Earlier this week, DOH and DBM pointed fingers over the difficulties in the
disbursement of the allowances to be received by the country’s healthcare workers
DOH Assistant Secretary Maylene Beltran said that the DBM only released the funds for the special risk allowance of healthcare workers on June 25, giving them only five days to disburse it since Bayanihan 2 was set to expire June 30.
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