NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
Provincial Legal Officer Atty. Nilo Ahat, who also serves as Bids and Awards Committee(BAC) chairman, explained over a radio program (Aug. 24, 2021) the circumstances surrounding the exceedingly high prices of the medical supplies procured by the province per audit observation of the Commission on Audit(COA).
In its post-audit report for Bohol, COA found that “Certain medical supplies ofCOVID-19 were procured and paid for at prices exceeding the price ceiling contained in the Department of Health (DOH) price freeze issuances as management weighed urgently and availability over price considerations resulting in loss of funds totaling P5,855,610.00.”
Ahat said that COA did not question the mode of procurement but only the alleged violation of the price freeze order issued by DOH.
In violation of the price freeze order, Ahat said that “mora’g mao na ang standpoint sa auditor.Nilapas ka sa freeze (order), na over price.”
Ahat said that based on the Bayanihan law governing the “emergency modality” the province had (sometime in April 2020) already procured the said medical supplies, which were not available here at that time considering the ban of air and sea travel due to the pandemic.
DATES OF FREEZE ORDER AND PROCUREMENT
He said the items that were procured prior to the price freeze amendment were not covered in freeze order No. 2020-0144 issued on March 30, 2020.
He said that after some processes of procurement they issued the purchase request (PR) on April 17; the notice of award on April 29, 2020, and the notice to proceed the following day to the suppliers.
Under the Bayanihan law, delivery of goods by the suppliers is“upon demand” unlike other modes that take some time considering the pandemic situation.
But DOH has amended it (freeze order No. 2020-0144 issued on March 30, 2020) by issuing Department Order No. 2020-0144-A on April 14, 2020, just three days after the PR was issued on April 17, 2020.
Based on the above, the procurement (dates) are after the issuance (date) and amendment (date) of the “price freeze” order.
Ahat told the said radio interview that “In all honesty, wami kabantay adto” that there was an amendment to the DOH order for price freeze setting price ceiling for medical supplies.
Meanwhile, Gov. Arthur C. Yap told his weekly press conference online that there was “no overpricing” of the supplies.
“Please, don’t think that the provincial government is overpricing the supplies,” he said.
He said that COA just “questions” the pricing. “Only a question not an allegation,” he said in vernacular as his response to media probing query. He added that it’s not correct to say \ that there was an allegation of overpricing.
He said his administration is ready to show COA the prices even as the suppliers allegedly are the ones who dictate the prices.
The “price freeze” ruling of the government (by itself), however, proves it is the government and not the suppliers who mandate the parameters for prices of government-purchased supplies.
Ahat said that based on COA’s recommendation for PLO to investigate, if necessary, his office has already asked the suppliers to respond in writing as required by COA.
BASIS OF COA
COA cited as the basis of its findings over medical supplies procurement the DOH’sPrice Freeze order No. 2014-0001 dated January 8, 2014, providing guidelines on price freeze of medicines during disaster and emergencies pursuant to RepublicAct No. 7581, known as The Price Act.
COA found out that suppliers, Panpispo Technologies, Inc. (PTI) and Dextel Trading (DT)incurred an excess of P5,748,000.00 and P101,610.00, respectively.
Items procured from PTI by Capitol are the following: KN95 face mask for 8000 items priced at P169.50 apiece, but the DOH allowable pricetag is P152.00 or an overprice of P140,000.00; 2,000 Safety goggles for eye protection at P384.00/purchase request, but DOH price is P180.00 apiece resulted to P408,000.00 excess and 10,000 Hazmat disposable protective clothing at P1,700.00 but DOH price is only at P1,200.00 apiece resulted in toP5,200,000.00 excess.
Items for COVID-19 procured from Dextel Trading’s are the following: 200 face masks 3-ply earloop 50’s at P1,700.00 for PR and P1,695 for, but DOH price is at P1,400.00 apiece that resulted to P59,000 excess; 300surgical face masks at P250.00 apiece but DOH price tag is P162.00, resulted in P27,900 excess; 500 alcohol 70% isopropyl at P120.00 but DOH price is atP99.75, resulted to 7,625 overprice; 40 caps headgear at P150 for PR but DOHprice is P125.00 resulted to P800.00 excess; and three (3) thermal scanner priced at P7,500 apiece for PR, but DOH is at P3,400.00 that resulted in toP12,285.00, COA said.
“This situation led PGBh (Bohol Provl government) to overpay for the medical supplies it procured relative to what can be legally demanded from it under the circumstances. Consequently, it incurred a loss of funds totaling P5,855,610.00,” COA said. (With a report from RVO)