Lacson sees 'pattern of overpricing' in procurement of COVID-19 equipment, vows day of reckoning

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 21 2020 02:03 PM | Updated as of May 21 2020 02:25 PM

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MANILA - The pattern of alleged overpricing in the Department of Health's procurement of medical equipment in the middle of a pandemic is the “height of callousness and greed,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Thursday.

“... I think there should be a day of reckoning on all these because seizing an opportunity out of a crisis is a good thing when you do it for country. But to seize an opportunity for self-aggrandizement out of a crisis as big as the COVID-19 pandemic, I think that’s the height of callousness and greed,” Lacson said in a phone interview on ANC’s Headstart.

Lacson on Tuesday questioned the DOH’s decision to buy COVID-19 testing machines and swabbing kits for more than twice the price of similar equipment bought by private companies.

A private company bought nucleic acid extractors needed to process coronavirus tests for P1.75 million each, while the DOH got the machines for P4 million a piece, Lacson had said in a Senate Committee of the Whole hearing.

“Fortunately for us, the private sector is also procuring the same items, not necessarily the same brand, but what the DOH did is to submit brand-based equipment, meaning they submitted to the procurement service of the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) the brand that they prefer which is a no-no, its not allowed under Section 18 of the Government Procurement Act,” Lacson said.

The P4-million equipment needed to be bought because other brands were not compatible with US-manufactured machines in Philippine laboratories, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

“They could all come up with all sorts of reasons. But at the end of the day, we see a pattern of overpricing. If it’s only one item then probably its been overlooked, they can reason out a different supplier or manufacturer but it’s a pattern,” he said.

Lacson also noted that the swabbing system bought by DOH was twice the price procured by the private sector.

“You cannot avoid being compared sa procurement price ng private sector. Bakit kapag ang government ang nagpo-procure hindi lang mahal, halos doble pa 'yung presyo and we are operating on a very limited resources?,” he said. 

(You cannot avoid being compared with the procurement of the private sector. Why is it that when it's government that is procuring, it's not just expensive but almost twice the price and we are operating on very limited resources?)

As of May 20, the health department reported 13,221 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 842 deaths and 2,932 recovery.