MANILA (UPDATE) — The Department of Health (DOH) is using a new automated system to monitor the purchase and inventory of pandemic supplies, its spokesperson said Friday, as Congress continuew to investigate the agency's procurement of allegedly overpriced items for COVID-19 response.
The COVID-19 Supply Management Tracking System is part of the agency's push to "improve our supply chain management system," DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a virtual press conference.
"Ito po is something new... Though we have our tracker before... This one is specifically focused on COVID-19 logistical supply," she said.
"Natra-track na din natin kung ano 'yung matatapos na 'yung shelf life," she said.
(We can now track what items are about to expire.)
The innovation was initially part of the "technical assistance being provided by USAID," the DOH told ABS-CBN News in a statement.
"The DOH-Knowledge Management and Information Technology Service (DOH-KMIT) developed the system in-house hence no additional funding was needed for the said project," the agency said.
The automated system "was pilot tested in July 2020" and was officially rolled out in March 2021.
The DOH has also placed a "recall and replace mechanism" for all its purchase requests, Vergeire said.
"Pinapalitan po nila ng bago para nae-extend 'yung shelf life," she said.
(They replace the items so that the shelf life will be extended.)
Several senators have been grilling DOH officials for buying RT-PCR test kits that were to expire in half a year, while other lawmakers questioned why thousands of medicines perished in the agency's warehouses.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson also alleged that a "mafia" within the DOH has been facilitating the purchase of nearly expired medical supplies.
Earlier this week, Sen. Francis Pangilinan accused the agency of buying nearly expired test kits, but DOH officials explained that at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, all testing kits had a short shelf life.
"Ang (the) shelf life ng test kits is not the same as that of medicine," Vergeire said.
"We always procure test kits that are within the acceptable shelf life," she said.
The DOH will respond to other allegations - including Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso's allegation that the agency wasted pandemic funds - in its reply to the Commission on Audit's (COA) recommendations, the spokesperson said.
"May sagot na tayo sa findings ng COA. Doon na lang proper venue para masagaot 'yang mga akusasyon na 'yan," she said.
(We have answered COA findings. That's the proper venue to answer those accusations.)