PH senators seek ‘special audit’ of COVID-19 funds amid allegations of overpricing

Senator Risa Hontiveros. Photo: Hontiveros/FB
Senator Risa Hontiveros. Photo: Hontiveros/FB

Senator Risa Hontiveros, along with several of her colleagues, yesterday filed a resolution asking a government agency to conduct a “special audit” of the Duterte government’s COVID-19 spending.

Hontiveros said she filed the resolution before the Commission on Audit (COA) due to swirling allegations that the government allegedly purchased coronavirus test kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) which were higher than the average market price.  The resolution comes four months after the signing of the Bayanihan (“Camaraderie”) To Heal As One Act of 2020, which gives President Rodrigo Duterte broad powers and billions of pesos to lead the government’s COVID-19 response.

Senators Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Panfilo Lacson, Sonny Angara, and Leila de Lima also adopted the resolution.

Read: Congress OKs bills granting Duterte emergency powers to fight COVID-19

“We are asking COA to conduct a special audit. Despite the huge amount and the broad powers [given to Duterte], there are reports that these procurements are allegedly overpriced,” Hontiveros said today in an interview with ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo.

“[The] acid nucleic extractor machines [used for tests] are overpriced; they’re US$4 million instead of US$1.7 million, [the price] that the private sector [reported]. Those overpriced PPEs, [they were bought for] PHP1,000 (US$20.31), when its going price in the market is less than half of that [amount],” she added in English and Filipino.

She added that it was necessary to conduct the probe amid reports that the DOH is ignoring the locally-invented and cheaper test kits, which are allegedly just being kept hidden inside its office.

“Then the DOH is just letting those Filipino-made, world-class, high confidence PCR test kits gather dust inside its warehouse while there are supposedly test kits coming from China and South Korea that entered [the Philippines] without being approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). We want to investigate those reports that the Department of Budget and Management made such procurements,” the lawmaker said.

It was on Tuesday that the Senate approved the second part of the Bayanihan To Heal as One Act, which gives Duterte even more funds to tap for the government’s COVID-19 response.

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