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COA chief: No overpricing of face masks, shields

The Commission on Audit told legislators Wednesday it found no irregularity in the purchase of face masks and face shields under the Duterte administration from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.

At a hearing conducted by the House of Representatives Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, COA chairman Michael Aguinaldo said most of its audit report on PS-DBM was about “inventory management,” and that there was no overpricing.

“What I can say, your honor, is that there is nothing in the COA report on the PS-DBM that pertains to overpricing, there’s no statement to that. The observations relate more to inventory management than overpricing,” Aguinaldo told the hearing, headed by Rep. Michael Aglipay of DIWA party-list group.

The Aglipay panel held a parallel probe with the Senate on the procurement of materials for COVID-19 items after COA flagged the Department of Health’s (DOH) transfer of P42 billion funds to fight pandemic to various agencies, including PS-DBM.

“So it is not correct to say that COA has said the purchase was overpriced because [there was no finding to the effect].  Anyway, we are here to be able to provide clarification to any of the questions the committee members will ask,” Aguinaldo said.

At the Senate, the Blue Ribbon panel led by Sen. Richard Gordon questioned the P8.7 billion funds that went to Pharmally, which only has P625,000 capital, in the procurement of pandemic items.

Pharmally bagged the contracts to supply face masks and face shields to the PS-DBM. President Duterte’s former economic adviser, Michael Yang, has been linked to Pharmally.

Like COA, Overall Ombudsman Warren Liong, then director of the PS-DBM when the P8.7 billion contract was given to Pharmally, also denied the alleged  overpricing.

On March 16, 2020, Liong said the DOH issued a price freeze on face masks, fixing it at P28 per piece. The government. he said, purchased the item at “P27.72, some even lower.”

Liong also explained that PS-DBM complied with the procedure for the emergency procurement under Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan To Heal as One Act of 2020, otherwise known as Bayanihan 1.

Bayanihan 1 exempts the procurement of necessary items from the provisions of the Government Procurement Reform Act.

“Under Bayanihan 1, we were allowed to directly negotiate but we still underwent market price analysis. We chose the one who has the capability to deliver quickly  or at least at the nearest possible time, lowest price based on quotations obtained from suppliers who can deliver at the right time and must be compliant with technical specification of the DOH,” Liong said.

Liong also denied that he was close with Senator Christopher Go, saying he never worked under the former Special Assistant to the President.

In related developments, former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang has no drug connections, said Senator Ronald dela Rosa who disclosed Wednesday he investigated him on order of President Rodrigo Duterte, then Davao City Mayor.

Dela Rosa served as Davao City police chief from 2012 to 2013 before he was  appointed by Duterte as PNP chief and Bureau of Corrections director.

“I don’t want to, I don’t need to clear anybody here. Just to set the record straight,” Dela Rosa said.

He recalled that when Yang arrived  in Davao, Duterte directed him to ‘keep an eye on him.”

“Call it Sinophobia or what—he told me to keep an eye on him and check if he is involved in illegal drugs,” he said.

However, the senator insisted he did not see anything suspicious then.

“I saw nothing,” he said.

Former anti-drug operative and official of the PNP-Drug Enforcement Group Eduardo Acierto earlier revealed the alleged links of Yang to illegal drugs.

However, Acierto said his intelligence report on Yang’s involvement in drugs was rejected by authorities, including the President.

Earlier this week, PDEA Director General Wilkins Villanueva also cleared Yang of any drug links.

The President himself defended Yang and cleared the Chinese businessman of any involvement in the illegal drug trade.

Topics: Commission on Audit , Department of Health , Face shield , Face Mask , Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp
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