MANILA, Philippines — The government lost P841 million in the purchase of ambulances “overpriced” by P1 million each, according to Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who tagged a “deeply rooted syndicate” in the Department of Health (DOH) as behind the alleged anomaly.
“The syndicate seems entrenched as there’s overpricing,” Lacons said in Filipino during Friday’s hearing of the Senate blue ribbon committee.
“That’s what we want you to look into closely so that the syndicate inside the department can be uprooted. Prepandemic or during the pandemic, it seems that buying expired medicines and overpricing have not stopped. We hope you can find a way to uproot, expose, and stop the syndicate in DOH,” he added.
Lacson threw the challenge to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, saying that the syndicate appeared to be behind the “recurring” problem of wasted funds due to medicines that were expired, nearly expired, or overstocked.
In response, Duque assured senators he would look into the concerns raised by Lacson.
“Yes, sir, I will make sure this will be given attention,” Duque said in Filipino.
When quizzed on the purchase of ambulances, Duque said the DOH procured and distributed 841 ambulances under the Health Facilities Enhancement Program for 2019 and 2020.
Citing records, Lacson said each ambulance procured by the DOH cost some P2.5 million including automated external defibrillators (AEDs), though some of the ambulances the DOH distributed to the Calabarzon area were without the AEDs.
But one local government unit that planned to procure an ambulance with similar specifications found that it cost only P1.5 million, the senator noted.
Lacson said ambulances procured by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office cost P1.585 million and those procured by those in the private sector cost P1.65 million.
“Why is there a big difference when it’s the DOH buying?” he asked.
“There’s only one thing we can conclude here. When there’s overpricing, isn’t it true that somebody is making money?” he added.
Lacson first revealed the purchase of “overpriced” ambulances in an INQside Look interview early this month.
The DOH earlier defended the procurement of ambulances by the DOH, saying it was compliant with licensing standards and has undergone competitive bidding.
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