Senate Blue Ribbon committee to grill ex-DBM official over allegedly overpriced PPEs

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 24 2021 10:53 PM

Former Budget undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao poses for this undated photo. Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System website 
Former Budget undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao poses for this undated photo. Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System website 

MANILA - The continuation of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing will focus on a former official of the Department of Budget and Management regarding the office’s involvement in procuring allegedly overpriced PPEs for the health department (DOH).

Former undersecretary Christopher Lao used to head the DBM-Procurement Service, which supposedly facilitated the DOH's acquisition of "expensive" face masks worth P27 each, while face shields were "overpriced" at P122 each.

He has already committed his attendance to the hearing on Wednesday, according to Sen. Richard Gordon.

The Blue Ribbon committee will zero in on the P2.7 billion worth of medicines procured by the DBM that are already nearing their expiration, Gordon said.

“That has to be clarified, there’s a demand for transparency,” he said.

Gordon said the Senate would require a firm commitment from the DOH that it will really settle all the unpaid allowances of public and private hospital nurses and other health care workers.

One major issue that must also be settled is the “parked” P42 billion COVID response funds with the DBM-PS, he emphasized.

The senator is also looking at scrutinizing the real role of the Philippine International Trading Corporation, which is supposedly being used by government agencies to park funds.

Senate President pro tempore Ralph Recto earlier said the “parked funds” in at DBM-PS and the PITC at around P63.1 billion.

Gordon suggested government agencies with unspent funds should be punished by getting “budget cuts” in the next year’s national spending plan.

“Accountability must fall on the department concern. Huwag kang hihingi ng per ana hindi mo kayang gastusin … bakit tayo naglalagay ng PITC? Hindi naman 'yan ang purpose ng PITC originally. Among other things, the PITC was supposed to buy Indian medicine,” he said.

Gordon underlined the need to revisit the procurement law which he claims is just being used to project supposed stringent government rules, but in truth, is giving advantage to unscrupulous individuals’ corruption activities.

He called for imposing budget cuts on agencies that cannot deliver projects in full.

“Ibabalik nila 'yung pera (sa national treasury), babawasan yung kanilang budget," he said.

Gordon said the hearing will also include questioning the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) over its failure to immediately reimburse the private hospitals claims.

The Philippine Hospital Association earlier said PhilHealth owes member-hospitals an average of P7 million each.

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