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Over P2 billion for COVID-19 supplies left unspent

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Over P2 billion for COVID-19 supplies left unspent
A health worker dons personal protective equipment in this undated file photo.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Over P2 billion allotted for COVID-19 supplies last year would have to be sent back to the national treasury as the Department of Budget and Management’s procurement service failed to spend it.

Paul Guimbarda, director of the Department of Health’s procurement service, told lawmakers on Friday during a hearing of the House public accounts committee that of the P42.41 billion transferred to the DBM’s procurement service, P2.07 billion in savings were generated.

However, DBM’s procurement service head Jasonmer Uayan said that this was not spent and just remained idle within the agency.

“The P2 billion funds is actually for reversion to the Bureau of Treasury considering the validity of these funds lapsed,” Uayan said.

The P2.07 billion in savings is part of the P42.41 billion transferred by the DOH to the DBM’s procurement service, which has been questioned by the Commission on Audit for lacking a memorandum of agreement and other supporting documents.

Officials of the DOH and DBM insist that there was no need for a memorandum of agreement between them as the funds transferred were for the procurement of COVID-19 supplies, which have been classified as “common use” supplies.

Rep. Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna party-list) said this unspent money could have been used by the DOH to augment their programs, activities and projects had they chosen not to transfer P42.41 billion to the DBM’s procurement service.

“Sinasabi natin, wala nang pera, wala nang pondo. P2 billion is P2 billion. Malayo ang narating nito to save the lives of our people, to save the lives of our frontline workers,” Zarate said.

(We say that we don’t have money, we don’t have funds. P2 billion is P2 billion. This could have gone a long way to save the lives of our people, to save the lives of our frontline workers.)

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III defended his department, saying that they thought that DBM’s procurement service would continue to buy COVID-19 supplies for them with the remaining unspent funds.

“Our thinking is that whatever savings the PS-DBM had generated was going to be used for continuing procurement of supplies. Because you know, the pandemic is continuing,” Duque said.

But Zarate rejected this defense. “You cannot just presume na dahil ang pandemya is continuing, you presume that these funds will continue to be used for the purpose that you transferred it to PS-DBM,” he said.

(You cannot just presume that because the pandemic is continuing, you presume that these funds will continue to be used for the purpose that you transferred it to PS-DBM.)

The DOH is under close scrutiny after the COA found “deficiencies” in its spending of P67.32 billion in funds for its COVID-19 response.

The House and the Senate are both holding parallel inquiries into these flagged deficiencies.

COMMISSION ON AUDIT

DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

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