COA flags Cebu City for purchase of RT-PCR machine, test kits

In its 2020 audit report, the Commission on Audit flagged Cebu City’s irregular purchase of a real time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) machine and testing kits.

“Real Time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) machine and testing kits amounting to P18,073,784.85 and P29,240,100.00, respectively, were procured by the City without consulting the Head of the Local Health Office contrary to Section 2 of RA 10121 and Section 478(5) of RA 7160, thus were not utilized by the City but were transferred to Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) without any MOA,” the document read.

Copies of the report were distributed to media before it was posted in the COA website because it was included in the city council's agenda for its regular session on Wednesday, July 14.

In the 259-page document, COA questioned why the procurement was not prepared by the local health officer and insisted that they would have been in the better position to requisition the items. Instead, the Agency Procurement Request and the Project Procurement Management Plan was prepared by Mayor Edgardo Labella’s chief of staff.

The city then ended up transferring the items to VSMMC, the only tertiary public hospital on the island.

State auditors also went on to raise concern on the fact that the Request for Quotation, the Purchase Order, and the delivery of the items were made on the same day, on March 25, 2020.

“Same-day delivery is not possible since the supplier is from Marilao, Bulacan. There being no airport in Bulacan, travel destination would be from Bulacan to Manila by Land and Manila to Cebu by plane,” the document read.

The APR, a form which is supposed to bear a detailed list of items to be procured as well as their retail price, was only prepared on March 26, 2020 – one day after the items were already delivered.

The RT-PCR machine supplier, Novus Avenir Pharmaceutical, is the same supplier of P42,585,000 worth of rapid antigen kits by the city – a transaction also flagged by COA for lacking sufficient documents and sidestepping proper procurement procedure. In their observations on the rapid tests purchase, COA also made a similar comment on the impossibility of same-day delivery.

COA also noted Rt-PCR test kits supplier SolGent Co. Ltd. 's nonsubmission of the Certificate of Distributorship or Dealership which put the city at risk of receiving unauthentic products. This is yet another similar comment made by COA in the city’s purchase of rapid test kits.

In the management's comment, the city tried to justify this as a consequence of limited time to purchase the items, reasoning that the transaction “was not under ordinary circumstances.”

The comment said, “… it was procured under emergency purchase where time is of the essence.”

No MOA, no assurance for residents

Cebu City also failed to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with the VSMMC, the recipient of the items. A MOA would have established the obligation of both parties involved, as well as document the actual transfer and receipt of the items.

“There was also no proper receipt and transfer of the property since there was no MOA entered into by and between the City of Cebu and the VSMMC, thus the accountability was not fixed,” the document read.

“Moreover, there is no assurance that the constituents of the City of Cebu would be able to avail of the basic health services such as the RT-PCR machine and testing kits that were transferred to VSMMC,” the document read.

In the management’s comment, the city failed to explain the lack of MOA, merely citing the fact that VSMMC had more experienced personnel to operate the machine.

“The City Health Office lacks trained personnel so the PCR machines were physically transferred to VSMMC,” the comment read.

Rappler reached out to City Administrator Floro Casas, Jr. for further comments on the issue but was unable to get a response as of posting. – Rappler.com