Palace open to special audit of COVID-19 funds

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Palace open to special audit of COVID-19 funds
Motorist crossing the border of Rosales and Balungao, Pangasinan gets disinfected in this photo taken March 24, 2020.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang is open to a special audit of the expenses, loans, and donations related to the government's pandemic response, saying all funds were spent for programs designed to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Seven senators have filed Resolution No. 479 seeking a special audit of all state spending under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, a law that provided President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers to fight the pandemic.

The resolution, signed by Senators Risa Hontiveros, Ralph Recto, Sonny Angara, Panfilo Lacson, Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, and Leila de Lima, cited purchases that have been "marred by allegations of overpricing" including the procurement of automated nucleic acid extractors, personal protective equipment (PPE) sets, and the importation of RT-PCR test kits from China and Korea. Senators also asked the Commission on Audit (COA) to present its findings before the 2021 budget deliberations.

"The president and Malacañang is not hiding anything," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a press briefing Thursday.

"All the funds spent for COVID-19 went to the government's COVID-19 response," he added.

Roque said the administration had regularly submitted to Congress reports on how the funds were spent while the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act was still in effect.

"Nonetheless, since we are not hiding anything, we welcome the special audit, noting that it would be audited anyway by COA because COA conducts post-audits," the Palace spokesman said.

Roque said he would present on Monday data on the government's expenditures for pandemic-related programs and items.

Carlito Galvez, Jr., chief implementer of the COVID-19 national policy, said efforts were made to buy cheaper but quality medical supplies. He said the government buys directly from manufacturers to lower costs.

"You can be assured that all funds intended for COVID-19 were used to buy our needs. The president has given us a personal instruction to ensure that the money should go to hospitals, testing and other intended recipients," Galvez said.

Galvez said the government also coordinated with foreign embassies to lower the prices of equipment to be purchased.

"Our president talks to leaders so we can have what we call a direct procurement, so we won't need to deal with suppliers," he added.

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