MANILA— Several senators on Wednesday said the Department of Budget and Management's Procurement Service (PS-DBM) purchased P1.3-billion worth of machines for the Department of Health (DOH) without proper authorization.
Under the law, agencies may only ask the DBM to procure items on their behalf without a memorandum of agreement if these materials are marked as common use items or goods used in the daily operations of the government.
The PS-DBM "bought extraction machines and mechanical ventilators, 1,500 units at P1.3 billion," Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said, pointing out that these machines are not common use items.
"Hindi po 'yan kasama sa listahan [ng common use items]," he said at a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing.
(That's not on the list of common use items.)
Face shields were also not marked as common use items last year, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said, questioning the billions-worth of face shields the PS-DBM purchased for the DOH.
"Hindi 'yun kasama sa listahan (That was not part of the list). PS-DBM was not authorized at that time to procure face shields," he said.
Former Budget Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao said the procurement was made after face masks, face shields and other pandemic-related items were "declared as common supplies."
"When they were discussing with us, PS-DBM has already been authorized by GPPB (Government Procurement Policy Board)," Lao said.
But Drilon argued that a memorandum of agreement "is necessary so that there can be a documentary tracing of this disbursement."
"Prudence would have dictated that when you transfer P42 billion, you should have signed something," he said.
DBM officer-in-charge Tina Canda said that the agency forwarded new lists and documents to the Senate, but Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chair Richard Gordon noted that the papers were only given about 2 hours before the hearing began.
The Commission on Audit (COA) earlier questioned the DOH's decision to transfer P42 billion to the PS-DBM without proper documentation.
As of June 30, the PS-DBM has delivered P31 billion worth of items to the DOH, said Rowena Lora, head of the DOH Finance Management Service.
"'Yun pong na-mention sa COA na report, it might be the recorded deliveries. There might be physical deliveries on site pero parating pa lang po 'yung mga dokumento," she said.
(What was mentioned in the COA report might be the recorded deliveries. There might be physical deliveries on site but the documents for these are still en route.)
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the chamber would work to " find the truth to be able to a find solution or an end to this recurring problem on the utilization of the Department of Health budget."
"It is very disheartening to see that much needed fund is just lying idly and put to waste especially that we are in the middle of a crisis," Sotto said.
"Maybe these funds could instead be allocated for the free mass testing and help save lives," he said.
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is expected to reconvene on August 27 for a third hearing on the questionable expenditures of the DOH.