MANILA — The Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management-(PS-DBM) signed contracts for the procurement of personal protective equipment against COVID-19 worth P1.386 billion without the safety requirement, according to the Commission on Audit.
In the 2021 audit report on the PS-DBM, state auditors said purchase orders for PPEs such as surgical masks, face shields, aprons, gloves, coveralls, head and cover gowns, and respirators were made even if the supplier did not submit the necessary Certificate of Medical Device Notification (CMDN).
The CMDN is a requirement for importers and manufacturers under the Food and Drug Administration circular dated Nov. 3, 2020, along with the license to operate.
Of the P1.386 billion contract, all items were fully delivered and paid by PS-DBM, except for a purchase order worth P505.7 million which was not delivered nor paid as of the end of 2021.
“The PS did not exercise due diligence in procuring the personal protective equipment items, neither in crafting the TSs nor in the review and evaluation of the technical capacity of the supplier to deliver the goods to be procured using the non-discretionary criteria,” the auditor said.
For safety purposes, technical specifications prepared by the DBM-PS required the CMDN from manufacturers and importers to ensure that their products have been notified with the Food and Drug Administration.
The audit team said that in the absence of the CMDN, the personal protective equipment were not authorized for sale or public use.
“Consequently, the PS cannot assure its client-agencies of the safety of the personal protective equipment especially to the medical staff users who are directly exposed to the COVID-19 virus during this pandemic,” the audit team said.
The PS-DBM management however told the auditors that the CMDN is only required if the PPE is to be commercially sold in the local market.
The agency also said that for all contracts, the World Health Organization and the Department of Health allowed the submission of equivalent foreign documents for imported PPEs.
The PS-DBM also emphasized that the PPEs were procured during extraordinary times and community lockdowns.
“Likewise, it is also important to consider that there was a need to immediately procure the medical supplies and equipment,” the PS-DBM told the audit team.
A copy of the management letter was received by then DBM-PS officer-in-charge Jasonmer Uayan on June 29, 2022. The letter can be also downloaded from the COA website.
Auditors in a separate report also flagged the PS-DBM's purchase of P2.4 billion worth of supposedly slow and outdated laptops for the education department.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said COA's findings on the PPE and laptops for public school teachers were "within the purview of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee."
"We look forward to the committee calling in these officials of PS-DBM so that these numerous issues are investigated," the lawmaker said, adding that she would file a resolution on this "soon."