COA chair says no overpriced PPEs flagged during Aquino administration

MANILA – The Commission on Audit (COA) did not flag any procurement of personal protective equipment (PPEs) under Noynoy Aquino’s administration, its chief said Friday. 

Responding to the interpellation of former health secretary and now Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin, COA Chairperson Michael Aguinaldo said he could not recall spotting such deficiency.

This came after Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque accused the Aquino administration of buying personal protective equipment (PPE) worth P3,500 to P3,800 in 2015 and 2016. He did not say for what. 

Garin, who led the Department of Health (DOH) from Dec. 2014 to June 30, 2016, asked Aguinaldo regarding it. 

“For the past 5 to 6 years wala namang na-flag na ganung problema? Mayroon bang na-flag na PPE procurement ng RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine) ng ibang offices 5 or 6 years ago o wala?” she asked.

“As far as I know parang wala namang observation na ganoon po,” Aguinaldo replied.

Garin maintained that she does not recall involvement in such procurement during her time.

“Again one of the high-ranking government officials recently revealed that the former administration procured allegedly overpriced PPEs. For the record I really cannot recall involvement in the procurement of these PPEs,” she explained.

Garin, however, recalled there was a PPE procurement in the RITM. 

“However if my memory recalls me right, certain program directors and by our national laboratory the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine have procured PPEs for the Ebola and Merscov.”

She stressed that she wasn’t directly involved in the purchase. 

But Aguinaldo said they are looking into the Palace’s claim.

“Yes, we actually asked the audit team of DOH to look into it. Initial findings po nila there were several procurements different types of PPEs the volume are quite not that big parang 2,000 [or] 3,000 lang pieces and we don’t have any date on the description of these PPEs,” the official said. 

A copy of a purchase order dated June 23, 2016 obtained by ABS-CBN News showed that PPEs bought by the DOH during the Aquino administration is a set composed of goggles, gloves, plastic shoe cover, coverall, surgical gown, N95 and surgical masks and head cap. It was bought at P3,864 per set.

It is also indicated in the document that the said PPE sets were procured for the use of “school-based health stations/BHSs under the Health Facility Enhancement Program Management Office (HFEPMO)”.

The DOH also procured a similar set of PPEs in 2015 worth P3,500 per set for the use of the Disease Prevention and Control Bureau.

This, as the Duterte administration is reeling from allegations of corruption in its COVID-19 response, in particular COA flagging the DOH regarding its P67 billion pandemic funds in 2020.

Senators are also looking into some P8.68 billion worth of deals that Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. bagged last year. The transactions included PPEs allegedly overpriced at P1,700 per set. 

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