MANILA - Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Sunday flagged P4 billion worth of alleged "unaccounted" protective gear sets that government supposedly purchased based at a certain price announced in May.
The senator earlier said the Philippines lost some P1 billion in procuring overpriced personal protective equipment (PPE), of which the majority was from foreign manufacturers.
The P1 billion loss is a "conservative estimate", Hontiveros said Sunday, as she raised another discrepancy following the response of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to her initial allegation.
Quoting the April-May or Quarter 2 Report of the DBM, Hontiveros said the health department ordered 5.1 million PPE sets worth P10.2 billion, or P2,000 each.
But she recalled that in May, Malacañang reported that government bought PPE sets worth P1,100 each.
"There’s a huge discrepancy there. Where is the extra P900 going? That’s around P4 billion worth of PPE sets that is unaccounted for," said Hontiveros.
“Maaring mas mahigit pa sa isang bilyon ang nakuha sa kaban ng bayan. Higit sa isang bilyon na dapat ginamit nalang para sa ayuda, sa pagtaas ng sahod, at napakarami pang iba."
(More than P 1 billion might have been lost from our public funds. P1 billion that could have been used for cash aid, salary increase and many others.)
Hontiveros added that the Confederation of Philippine Manufacturers of PPE (CPMP) was "ready to respond to the needs of the pandemic and yet government continued to import PPEs."
“Kayang kaya ng Pilipino tumugon sa pangangailangan ng kapwa Pilipino. DBM and DOH should immediately engage with and prioritize our local manufacturers. Kung magagawa ito, mas maraming trabaho din ang mapupunta sa Pilipino,” she said.
(Filipinos can respond to their fellow countrymen's needs. DBM and DOH should immediately engage with and prioritize our local manufacturers. If they can do it, many jobs will go to Filipinos.)
The DBM's purchasing service said Thursday 7 contracts for PPE sets were awarded to China-based firms from April to May because "no local supplier" could comply with the DOH's required 8-piece PPE set budgeted at P2,000 each.
The sole local company that offered a contract was declared non-compliant due to a higher price at P2,873, and its on-hand stocks were inadequate, according to PS-DBM head and Budget Undersecretary Lloyd Lao.
Price offers received from China-based suppliers averaged at P1,773.51, he added.
"It is for this reason that the PS-DBM deemed it only proper and beneficial for the Philippine government to award the urgently-needed PPEs to foreign suppliers," Lao said.
The PS-DBM has asked Hontiveros' office to provide documents and the names of local suppliers that could have offered lower prices from April to May but it has yet to reply, he added.
Hontiveros said she has filed a Senate resolution to investigate the allocation of COVID-19 funds under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
“We need this audit to inform our budget deliberations in the Senate. I will also have the agencies submit documents related to the aforementioned questionable procurements for our budget hearings,” she said.