Budget Watch

Lacson questions ‘overpriced’ DOH ambulance equipment, cellphones

Bonz Magsambol
Lacson questions ‘overpriced’ DOH ambulance equipment, cellphones

Screenshot from Senate stream

'Itong mobile phones napansin namin kaagad. Ang laki ng discrepancy,' says Senator Panfilo Lacson, noting that the mobile phones cost P22,022 or 73% more than the market retail price

Senator Panfilo Lacson questioned the “overpriced” ambulance equipment, including cellphones and dash cameras, bought by the Department of Health (DOH) for its Calabarzon office.

At the Senate budget hearing for the DOH’s 2022 budget on Wednesday, October 20, Lacson presented the equipment bought by the DOH Calabarzon, which he said, were overpriced by as much as 70%.

Among those items were two mobile phones, with sim cards, with a bidding price of P30,000. Lacson said that the retail price of the said mobile phone with the same brand was just P7,998 for two.

“Itong mobile phones napansin namin kaagad. Ang laki ng discrepancy,” Lacson said, noting that the mobile phones were P22,022 or 73% more expensive than the market price.

(We noticed right away these mobile phones. There was a huge discrepancy.)

The senator said that he felt guilty because he defended the budget of the agency to have more funds under its Health Facilities Enhancement program (HFEP), and yet he discovered overpricing of equipment.

“We are not accusing you, but these are public funds. I, personally augmented the budget of the HFEP so it would be compliant with the Universal Healthcare Law. Somehow I feel guilty when I see some overpricing in the procurement of equipment,” Lacson said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Aside from overpriced mobile phones, Lacson also presented to the hearing the supposed overpriced dashboard cameras for the ambulances. He said that the bidding price for the dash cams was set at P15,000. However, the retail price of each dash cam is only P4,500.

Other ‘overpriced’ equipment

Lacson said that the DOH also purchased stretchers at P23,800 when the item has a retail cost of only P21,200 each.

An automated external defibrillator (AED) was also procured by the DOH at P165,000 but the item retailed for just P96,500 each.

“These are the things that we want to be explained by the department. These are public funds,” he said.

In September, Lacson bared that the DOH-bought ambulances allegedly overpriced by P1 million per unit in 2021. 

Lacson cited documents indicating that the DOH had purchased several ambulances from AEB at P2.5 million under its HFEP in 2021.

But when he checked with local government units that purchased the same kind of ambulance units, it only cost P1.5 million per ambulance.

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Lacson: DOH bought ambulances ‘overpriced by P1 million each’

Lacson: DOH bought ambulances ‘overpriced by P1 million each’

Lacson said that there was a possibility that the LGUs that purchased similar ambulance units were “shortchanged” by the supplier. He added that the DOH required that each ambulance be fitted with 30 pieces of basic life support (BLS) equipment. The delivered units supposedly were fitted with just 21.

“These are the things we should avoid Secretary Duque. Ang canvass namin mga (Our canvass is at) retail prices,” Lacson said.

In response, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said that he would order investigation into the procurement.

“Rest assured that we will have this investigated because these are public funds and we don’t want money to be used and not be able to maximize the value, especially that these are scarce resources,” Duque added.

The DOH has been the subject of marathon congressional hearing over its poor use of P67 billion worth of pandemic funds. – Rappler.com

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.