MANILA - The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday clarified that no double payments were made when it asked the budget department to procure the health workers' personal protective equipment (PPE) last year, after senators alleged that it happened during the process.
In a statement, the agency said they bought the face shields and face masks from the Department of Budget and Management's Procurement Service (PS-DBM) through its virtual store.
PS-DBM earlier explained that they have two types of procurement: one using revolving funds and the other, which uses their own funds. The latter mode of procurement uses its own store, the items of which are being sold to other agencies.
"Virtual store orders can be immediately claimed by the procuring agency... The DOH reiterates that these are separate transactions and all orders were completely turned over to the department," the statement read, noting that these were given free to health frontliners in public and private hospitals.
"The DOH scanned the PS-DBM virtual store and purchased loose face shields and surgical masks, which were readily available, to immediately augment PPE supplies for healthcare workers in low-risk settings."
The agency has yet to clarify, however, why regional hospitals still needed to buy PPEs from the PS-DBM if they already bought these items for them, as pointed out by the Commission on Audit (COA).
In the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Tuesday, Senate President Vicente Sotto III also aired his frustration why these hospitals purchased the PPEs from the budget agency's office reportedly at a higher price.
Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Richard Gordon, meanwhile, alleged that DOH might have bought the items twice because of the scheme.
"Chairman [Michael] Aguinaldo, hindi ba na-double book tayo doon? namili na nga tayo ng mahal, hindi pa naibenta, edi lugi talaga ang gobyerno, doble lugi," Gordon asked.
(Didn't we double book because of the process? We were not able to sell it so the government incurred mounting losses)
"It is carte blanche that they could use to take advantage of the situation kasi mahal, marami na ang binili, at nakakapagtaka kasi isa lang ang nakinabang nang napakalaki na binili," the lawmaker alleged.
(They could have taken advantage of what happened because it was expensive, and only a small company benefited from this)
But COA's Aguinaldo pointed out that PS-DBM might have failed to sell the PPEs at a fair price after its cost went down late last year.
In response to Aguinaldo and the senators' allegations, PS-DBM said they tried to match the prices from a local manufacturer.
Senators are investigating irregularities in the previous procurement of personal protective equipment through the PS-DBM, which they said are overpriced.
The COA had earlier questioned the DOH's decision to transfer P42 billion to the PS-DBM without proper documentation.