Senators grill DOH, DBM over overpriced face masks, shields

Health and Budget officials put through the wringer over the highly-priced face masks and face shields flagged by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Imee Marcos from their Commission on Audit annual report in 2020. Marcos questioned why the Department of Health (DOH) suddenly transferred P42.4 billion to the Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service (DBM-PS) even though she claimed that the Health officials are still capable of holding several procurement biddings on Wednesday, August 18, 2021, during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing. Followed by Drilon telling that it is “obvious” that there was an “overpricing” in the procurement of these COVID-19 supplies and asked who was the head of PS-DBM back then?

It was former Budget Undersecretary Christopher Lloyd Lao who resigned from his post two months ago, DBM officer-in-charge Tina Rose Canda said. She thinks it was already a subject of a previous investigation and was not aware of what happened. Lao said at that point that because there were limited items in the local market, the amounts he presented were defensible. So I left it at that, I did not ask more questions,” she added. Gordon then requested Canda to provide all the transactions entered into by Lao during his stint as head of the DBM-PS.

This is not the first time the DBM-PS was linked to allegations of overpricing. Senator Panfilo Lacson questioned the DOH and the DBM-PS over their procurement of expensive laboratory equipment necessary for COVID-19 testing when there is a different brand used by the private sector which is available at a lower price In May 2020. Senator Risa Hontiveros also claimed that the DBM-PS bought overpriced China-made personal protective equipment (PPE) In September 2020.