MANILA (UPDATE) — The Department of Health supports a special audit of the multibillion-peso loan granted by lending institutions for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines.
The DOH made the statement after the Commission on Audit disclosed Tuesday that the World Bank and Asian Development Bank sought a special audit of the vaccine procurement deals.
The agency even clarified it was the health department that "proactively" asked COA to conduct such audit.
"If you listened to the full statement of COA Chair Gamaliel Cordoba, it was actually the DOH that proactively sought the support of COA to conduct this special audit, as this is part of our commitments specified in our loan agreements with WB and ADB," the DOH said in a statement on Wednesday.
The DOH said it sent a letter to COA "as early as September" to request the special audit. The agency also said it picked COA as its auditing firm in the agreements.
"So, rest assured that the DOH is well aware of the commitments that it needs to uphold as it relates to the loans we secured for the COVID-19 vaccine procurements, and that it will continue to be proactive in ensuring that our taxpayers' money is well-spent," the DOH said.
During Tuesday's Commission on Appointment deliberations, Cordoba disclosed that former Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said his agency could not submit documents on the vaccine deals due to the non-disclosure agreement or NDA that government signed with pharmaceutical firms.
But Cordoba said COA's legal office argued that state auditors were not covered by the NDA and they would exhaust all legal processes to secure the documents.
"What we will do is our resident auditor will issue a demand letter. If they don't turn over the documents, we will raise the issue to the COA proper level," Cordoba said in a mix of Filipino and English.
"But if there's still no compliance, we have to issue a notice of suspension and go through the process of disallowance and this will continue and other legal processes, which may include issuance of a subpoena," he added.
The DOH disclosed this month that more than 31 million shots of COVID-19 vaccines went to waste, with an estimated cost of P15.6 billion.
Of the total wasted doses, some 24 million expired due to short shelf life, DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire has said.
The remaining 7 million shots went to waste due to temperature excursion, while other vials were opened and unused.
"This 31 million po 'pag tinignan po natin 'yung kabuuan, almost 70 percent po dito ay 'yun pong na-procure ng private sector at saka ng local governments," Vergeire has said.
As of November 20, more than 73.5 million Filipinos are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Of the figure, over 20.7 million have received their first boosters.