Budget Watch

Villanueva: What happened to P14-B undelivered pandemic contracts?

Sofia Tomacruz

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Villanueva: What happened to P14-B undelivered pandemic contracts?

HOUSE PROBE. House Deputy Speaker Eddie Villanueva at the House of Representatives Committee on Good Government and Accountability's hearing on September 27, 2021.

Screenshot from House of Representatives video

The question asked by Deputy Speaker Eddie Villanueva in the House of Representatives probe is left hanging as health officials are unable to provide details while COA reviews update reports from DOH

Citing findings from a report by the Commission on Audit (COA) to the House of Representatives, Deputy Speaker Eddie Villanueva said on Monday, September 27, that about P14.4 billion worth of supplies from pandemic contracts already awarded have yet to be delivered to the government. 

The amount comes from the total P47.7 billion the Department of Health (DOH) transferred to Procurement Services of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM), P41.4 billion of which was transferred in 2020 and P6.29 in 2021. 

Villanueva said that of the total amount, COA’s report showed P44.3 had been obligated, though just some P29.9 billion so far been delivered. 

Ano po ang kondisyon ngayon ng P14 billion na iyon? Nasaan po iyon? At bakit hindi nagamit? (What’s the condition of that P14 billion now? Where is that? And why hasn’t it been used yet)” Villanueva asked. 

Screenshot from House of Representatives video

Dismayed by the perception that the House’s hearing were not in the public’s interest, Villanueva said he wanted to ask questions to show that “hindi moro-moro ang hearing dito sa House of Representatives (The hearing in the House of Representatives is not scripted).”

The House has so far mouthed the line of the Duterte government in countering the Senate’s probe. In an earlier hearing, the House panel said that Senate hearings were held “in aid of election, not in aid of legislation.”

Villanueva: What happened to P14-B undelivered pandemic contracts?

The question, however, was ultimately left hanging on Monday, after health officials were not ready with detailed answers, while the COA said auditors were reviewing a DOH report on updates recently submitted to the agency. 

COA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo said he expected some changes in the P14 billion figure to have taken place. “There are likely subsequent changes since DOH submitted updates to COA’s observations,” he said in English and Filipino. 

DOH Director Rowena Lora, meanwhile, only answered that with the COA’s report based on findings as of the end of 2020, “it might be that from January to June mayroon na rin pong deliveries yan (there are probable already additional deliveries).” Lora said the DOH would submit a report to lawmakers with more details. 

The PS-DBM, an attached agency of the DBM, functions as a buying-agent for government agencies for common-use supplies. It also acts as a shop for common-use items like ballpens so agencies agencies could buy these from them at a low price.

In the early months of the pandemic, the DOH hired the services of the PS-DBM and transferred huge sums to the agency to procure on behalf of the department as it was crippled by a lack of manpower and the magnitude of responding to the health crisis. 

It was not immediately clear which firms and items were covered by the undelivered amount of P14 billion. 

At a recent hearing in the Senate, an internal audit ordered by ex-DBM chief Wendel Avisado showed that, Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation – a firm that bagged the biggest amount of pandemic contracts so far – has been consistently delayed in its deliveries so much so that damages have already been charged against it.  – Rappler.com

Read the other stories from the September 27, 2021, House committee on good government and public accountability hearing: 

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers defense and foreign affairs. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz.