MANILA, Philippines – The Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management – previously the subject of congressional investigations due to anomalous pandemic contracts – was found by state auditors to have approved supply deals for personal protective equipment (PPE) that were not certified as safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The seven contracts, from 2020 and 2021, had a combined worth of P1.387 billion, and were awarded by PS-DBM despite their failure to obtain the mandatory Certificate of Medical Device Notification (CMDN) that would have guaranteed the safety and quality of the products.
Classified as PPEs were N95 medical masks, surgical masks, head covers, gloves, shoe covers, and gowns worn by medical workers.
In its report released recently, the Commission on Audit (COA) cited FDA Circular No. 2020-031, which required manufacturers and importers to first obtain a license to operate and a CMDN “prior to commercial sale and distribution of such medical devices.”
‘Not authorized for sale or public use’
Therefore, the COA said, the PPE covered by the contracts approved by PS-DBM “were not authorized for sale or public use” because of the lack of safety certifications.
“Consequently,” the auditors said, “the PS cannot assure its client-agencies of the safety of the personal protective equipment especially to the medical staff users who are directly exposed to the COVID-19 virus during this pandemic.”
Created during the time of the senior Ferdinand Marcos, PS-DBM procures common-use items for other government agencies. It functions as a grocery so the agencies could buy these from PS-DBM at a low price without having to look for suppliers themselves.
The PS-DBM therefore prepares the technical specifications for items to be purchased. In the case of the PPE contracts, the agency either failed to specify the requirement for safety certifications or awarded the contracts despite the absence of the CMDN.
PS-DBM cites emergency situation
All but one of the seven contracts had been fully paid by the PS-DBM, the auditors found:
- P450 million for full-range PPE
- P225 million – full-range PPE
- P505.708 million – full-range PPE (undelivered, unpaid)
- P58.834 million – surgical masks
- P59.845 million – surgical masks
- P57.419 million – surgical masks
- P29.72 million – surgical masks
In its comment on the audit findings, PS-DBM said all contracts involved emergency procurement, given the nature of the pandemic. Either the procurement rules no longer applied or were hard to implement due to the “shifting quarantine classifications, community lockdowns, and shifting work arrangements,” the agency said.
PS-DBM added: “Likewise, it is also important to consider that there was a need to immediately procure the medical supplies and equipment. The PS, in order to address such a need, acted with haste in procuring said items.” – Rappler.com