Senator Panfilo Lacson on Thursday said the Department of Health (DOH) purchases, amid the COVID-19 crisis, seem to have an “overpricing” pattern.
“They [DOH authorities] can always come up with all sorts of reasons but in the end, we see a pattern of overpricing. If it’s only one item then probably it’s been overlooked or they can reason out a different supplier or manufacturer,” Lacson said during an interview on ANC .
“But it’s a pattern,” Lacson said.
“Every time they procure health products, when you compare it with the purchased price of private sector,” Lacson also said.
During a Senate hearing, Lacson questioned Health Secretary Francisco Duque III why the government procured a costly laboratory equipment for COVID-19 testing when a different brand used by the private sector is available at a lower price.
In his defense, Duque cited a compatibility issue with the cheaper brand, which has also been refuted by the senator.
“I confronted Secretary Duque, he is claiming the reason they did not purchase Sansure is because it is a closed system, which is not true,” Lacson said.
“‘Yung Sansure when I did a little research and asked some doctors and medical practitioners, it is compatible with at least five other machines. These are technical terms. But it is not true at all that Sansure, which is a brand manufactured in China, is a closed system,” he added.
Lacson said that the DOH purchased a swabbing system worth $32 each which was double the price acquired by the private sector.
The senator said that personal protective equipment (PPE) are available at P1,079 each but the government opted to purchase PPEs priced at P1,979 per set.
“Not this time, we are in the middle of a crisis. We should not be distracting DOH and other government instrumentalities by conducting an investigation but I think there should be a day of reckoning on all this,” Lacson said.
“To seize an opportunity for self-aggrandizement out of a crisis as big as the COVID-19 pandemic I think that’s the height of callousness and greed,” he added.
Senator Leila De Lima also slammed the DOH over the overpricing allegations amid the pandemic.
“You bought PPE sets at 1,800 pesos each from China while VP Leni Robredo was able to tap local manufacturers and suppliers, and procure PPE sets at only 400 pesos each! Nakakagalit na sa gitna ng pagpe-press release ng DOH ng mga “achievements” nito, eh ayan ang pinaka-malinaw na ebidensya na may posibleng anomalyang kumukulo na at pumuputok na – at the expense of medical frontliners no less! While the country’s coffers are quickly drying up, while the health sector is struggling to hold the line, here is the DOH surrounded with corruption allegations yet again. Bakit natin kailangan bumili ng napakamahal na mga PPE from China samantalang marami nang naiulat na mga produkto ng China na depektibo at mapanganib?” De Lima said.
“Kailangang magpaliwanag ng ating DOH ukol sa mga ulat na ito. Our people have suffered and placed our survival in the hands of our government. If we are to “heal as one”, we need our government to be transparent and accountable,” she said.
De Lima claimed that PPEs produced by some local manufacturers and suppliers only cost P400 each, way lower than what is being procured by government from China.
Last March, Senator Grace Poe also questioned the P1.8-billion budget that the DOH has earmarked for the purchase of one million sets of PPEs for frontliners in the war against COVID-19.
The DOH explained that what it bought at such a price was a complete set of PPEs, including several other paraphernalia.
On the other hand, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also asked the DOH to look into the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) pricing of the COVID-19 testing package worth P8,150.
Duque said the current packages range from P2,710 to P8,150, depending if the test kits used were donated or not.
Philhealth chief Ricardo Morales said the costs were based on data collected early in the pandemic and that these are being reviewed for update./Stacy Ang