Imee wants PS-DBM, PITC abolished
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Senator Imee Marcos on Monday called for the abolition of two government agencies which she said have outlived their usefulness, following concerns over overpriced face masks and face shields amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a virtual briefing, Marcos said she will file for the abolition of the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service (PS-DBM) and the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC).
“I think it’s really outlived its usefulness and instead, with its miserable track record and all these kurakot [corruption] we keep hearing about — or sabihin na nating walang [let’s say there’s no] corruption — all these inefficiencies we keep hearing about, eh mas maigi na na mag-procure na lang ang bawat isa [it’s better that each agency procures],” she said.
Citing PITC documents, Marcos said the agency procured face masks priced at P40, and face shields priced from P180 to P190. She noted, however, that the documents were incomplete and that these may be per pack.
Under its mandate, PITC engages in both export and import trading new or non-traditional products and markets, which are not normally pursued by the private business sector.
It is also tasked to provide a wide range of export-oriented auxiliary services to the private sector.
Meanwhile, the PS-DBM is mandated to purchase, warehouse, and distribute items for resale to agencies of government, including government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs).
In a previous Senate blue ribbon committee hearing, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon questioned the purchase of face masks and face shields by the PS-DBM, as flagged by the state auditors in the 2020 annual audit report.
It was found that PS-DBM bought face masks at P27.22 apiece and face shields at P120 each, which senators said were overpriced. The suggested retail prices were later set at P2 to P4 per face mask, and P26 to P50 per face shield.
Lloyd Christopher Lao, a former DBM undersecretary who headed PS-DBM, had earlier denied that there was overpricing in the purchase of face masks and face shields.
Lao explained that when PS-DBM procured face masks at P27 apiece and face shields at P120 each, “during that time that was one of the cheapest.”
He also said that during the peak of lockdowns last year, supplies of face masks and face shields were scarce since global trade was affected by the pandemic and most of suppliers are importer-distributors.
Marcos, meanwhile, questioned why both the PITC and the PS-DBM were needed to procure face masks and face shields, when the Department of Health (DOH) continued to acquire supplies by itself.
“Nakakagulat nga eh kasi P11 billion ‘yung naka-park sa PITC, andyan sa DBM-PS eh P16 billion naman. Add mo ‘yung dalawa, P27 billion. Bigay mo na hospital and healthcare, bigay na natin now na,” she said.
(It is surprising because P11 billion is parked in the PITC while in the DBM-PS it’s P16 billion. Add the two and you have P27 billion. Why not give that amount to the hospitals and healthcare facilities? Let’s give it now.]
The senator also raised the possibility of the two agencies not receiving funds under the 2022 national budget.
“I think it’s time that we look at both agencies properly. Makakatipid tayo ng malaki kasi may mga plantilla din ‘yan, may mga USec. din ‘yan, ang tataas din ng sahod. [We will save a lot because they have plantillas, they have undersecretaries who have high salaries.] At least all these savings will go to our COVID response,” she said.
Marcos in November said the PITC — which has already been questioned for supposedly serving as a “parking lot” for government agency funds — should lead the procurement of the COVID-19 vaccines. —KBK, GMA News