Senate probe sought into PPE contracts awarded to Davao firm despite lower bids

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
Senate probe sought into PPE contracts awarded to Davao firm despite lower bids
This undated photo shows passengers at a public transportation wearing face masks and face shields, which had been made mandatory as a preventive measure against the COVID-19
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker is urging the Senate to investigate state auditors' finding that the Philippine International Trading Corp. awarded pandemic contracts worth P129.8 million to a firm based in Davao City without considering lower bids from other suppliers.

The Commission on Audit in its 2020 audit report on PITC said the state trading company, which had a total approved budget contract of P186.59 million for the emergency procurement of PPEs, awarded ten contracts "to a bidder capable of delivering all the items without considering the lowest price proposal for each item."

While the COA did not identify the firm in its report, the notices of award for the same contracts are available on PITC's website and show that they were awarded to Biosite Medical Instruments in Davao City. 

The contracts, all awarded on April 1, 2020, were for PPE items including N95 masks priced at P98 each and face shields with a unit price of P198. 

RELATED: Former DBM exec: 'No explanation’ for buying face masks for P27, shields for P120

COA said PITC could have saved P2.17 million in public funds if it had considered lower bids.

Sen. Leila de Lima, a member of the Senate minority, filed Senate Resolution 906 urging her colleagues to launch an inquiry into the matter and into reported "delays and deficiencies in [PITC's] procurement and utilization of funds from various source agencies (SAs), with the end in view of identifying accountability."

The resolution comes amid the Senate's continued probe into reported deficiencies in pandemic spending which has so far centered on pandemic contracts awarded by another government procuring body within the budget department to the Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation.

A number of the individuals under scrutiny over their involvement in the matter are also from Davao City and have close ties to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Among them are the president's former economic adviser Micheal Yang and his former election lawyer Lloyd Christopher Lao who was head of the PS-DBM when the largest pandemic contracts were awarded to Pharmally. 

READ: Michael Yang, named as Pharmally backer, skips Senate hearing over blood pressure | ‘Shortcut’: Senators call out incomplete, anomalous Pharmally procurement papers

Several measures have been filed in both chambers of Congress seeking to abolish both the PS-DBM and the PITC.

PITC to COA: Lowest price not only factor to be considered 

In its reply to COA which was also included in the final audit report, PITC said "the lowest price proposal is never the sole factor in determining the winning bidder entitled to an award of the contract."

It added that "premium was given to suppliers who can deliver MOST, if not ALL items, given the nature of the emergency," citing the Department of Health whcih raised the need "to ensure that medical front liners will have the complete set of PPEs."

State auditors responded by noting that while price might not be the sole factor, "it is still one of the primary considerations in awarding the contract particularly when all the bidders met the eligibility and technical requirements."

COA also flagged that Biosite "incurred a delay in delivery," writing a request to PITC on April 16, 2020, two days before deliveries were due, to request an extension until the end of the month "because of a delay in loading the items in the port of China."

The commission noted that the request was granted by the PITC without imposing any penalty or damages against the firm. 

In response to this, PITC said delays in deliveries "can never be predicted by a procuring entity" and that it has the power to "grant delivery time extensions especially if based on meritorious grounds." 

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with