COA: OWWA bought sanitary napkins at up to P35 each

Sanitary napkins at P35 each?

State auditors flagged this transaction made by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) for hygiene kits distributed during the pandemic.

In its 2020 annual audit report, the Commission on Audit (COA) said some P969,920 was spent to buy sanitary napkins, hygiene kits, and thermal scanners from construction firm MRCJP Construction and Trading.

Purchases were done from May 7 to May 18 in 2020, which coincided with the latter part of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila. Modified ECQ started on May 16, 2020.

Here is the breakdown for the sanitary napkin purchases:

  • P5,200 - 520 pieces at P10 per pad
  • P1,720 - 86 pieces at P20 per pad
  • P3,000 - 100 pieces at P30 per pad
  • P52,500 - 1,500 pieces at P35 per pad

Interestingly, the largest number of napkins bought was purchased at the highest unit price.

"The procured sanitary napkins per pad is very costly, the napkins can be bought in small sari-sari stores at P5 to P8 per pad only," COA said.

State auditors also noted that the thermal scanners bought by OWWA – at P2,950 per unit at the time – were higher versus the prices published on the internet ranging from P400 to P800.

It also said that what was included in the hygiene kits, bought at P160 apiece, were not itemized.

Further, COA also said that it tried to look for the location of the MRCJP Construction and Trading, whose address was supposedly located in Malibay, Pasay City, but it could not be found during an ocular inspection.

"It is unlikely that these items were bought from a store which deals with construction supplies or hardware, considering that the Mercury Drugstore is just around the vicinity of the OWWA," COA said.

Some P300,000 was also spent to buy packs of bottled water and snacks from a caterer with a business address in Quezon City. COA said that these could have been bought in supermarkets near OWWA.

In a statement on Wednesday, August 18, OWWA Administrator Hans Cacdac said that the officer in charge of the ground operations, Deputy Administrator Faustino Sabarez III, will still have to explain the reason for the purchases.

"The COA finding is not yet final. Deputy Administrator Faustino Sabarez III, who headed our ground operations at the height of the enhanced community quarantine or ECQ in March to June 2020, is given a chance to explain his side and liquidate his cash advance," Cacdac said.

The COA report did not initially name which deputy administrator was involved, with some netizens speculating it was OWWA Deputy Administrator Mocha Uson.

Cacdac emphasized in his Wednesday statement that OWWA Deputy Administrator Mocha Uson was not involved in the transaction.

The OWWA chief also said the amount involved was not charged from the Trust Fund of overseas Filipino workers, but from the national budget.

On the issue of the missing store in Pasay City, Cacdac in Twitter replies said the agency will "continue to submit" to COA's auditing process in settling the issue.

OWWA received an unqualified audit opinion in 2020, which meant that it got the highest rating from state auditors. Cacdac maintained that the transaction is an "isolated" event as the amount in question is 0.01% of the P9 billion audited budget.

Cacdac said the issues should be resolved by either next week or the fourth week of August. OWWA will issue a notice to explain to the affected official later on Wednesday, Cacdac added. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.

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