NBI probes Ona, DOH over vaccine procurement

Rappler.com
NBI probes Ona, DOH over vaccine procurement
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima cites reports that the initially discreet investigation being conducted by her agency is one of the reasons Health Secretary Enrique Ona has gone on leave

MANILA, Philippines – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is conducting an investigation into the procurement by the Department of Health (DOH) of vaccines in 2012, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Monday, November 10.

The case involves the procurement of 1 million units of Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine 10 (PCV 10) – a vaccine used for immunization of infants and children against pulmonary diseases – worth over P833 million.

The investigation stemmed from complaints from “certain sectors” who went straight to the Office of the President, De Lima said.

The complainants alleged that the DOH procured PCV 10 vaccines instead of a “more cost-effective” vaccine, the PCV 13.

The procurement was said to have been “directed” by Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag, and “made possible by a certificate of exemption issued” by Secretary Enrique Ona in 2012.

It was made “contrary to the recommendation of the National Center for Pharmaceutical Access and Management (NCPAM), the Formulary Executive Council (FEC) and the World Health Organization (WHO),” De Lima quoted the complainants.

 

She said the President assigned the case to the Department of Justic last June, and the NBI was instructed to do a “discreet investigation” into the matter. This, however, proved tricky, after the investigating team wasn’t able to access documents and were given the runaround by some DOH offices.

The investigation, the justice chief said, is now an “open investigation” so that subpoenas can be issued. The NBI’s Anti Graft Division is set to issue subpoenas to Ona, Tayag, and other DOH officials.

A progress report on the discreet probe was given to her office Friday, November 7, she said.

Those involved in the anomalous transaction could face both criminal and administrative cases, De Lima said.

“We are fast-tracking [the probe] because, based on reports, that’s one of the reasons for Secretary Ona being on leave now,” she added.

Ona is currently on leave, initially reported as a “sick leave,” which fueled speculation that he is on his way out as health secretary.

President Aquino later said that his top health official went on leave so Ona could “prepare” answers to questions on the government’s vaccination program, and the balance between preventive and curative aspects of public health.

Undersecretary Janette Garin is currently officer-in-charge of the Department. Rappler.com

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