Ex-DBM exec insists no 'overpriced' purchase of COVID-19 suppliesBy ANNA FELICIA BAJO,GMA News
A former official of the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) insisted Wednesday that the purchase of COVID-19 supplies at the onset of the pandemic was not overpriced.
During an inquiry at the House of Representatives, former PS-DBM director Warren Rex Lliong, who is now a deputy ombudsman, explained that the price of medical supplies procured were lower compared to the suggested retail price of the Department of Health.
"Overpriced ba talaga ang PPEs na binibili ng gobyerno noong 2020? Hindi po. Dahil tumaas ang presyo ng face masks noong panahon ng pandemya, naglagay po ang DOH ng suggested retail price, so price freeze it was placed at P28. Ang halaga po ng binili ng gobyerno ay P27.72, somewhere actually lower," Lliong said.
(Were the PPes purchased by the government in 2020 overpriced? No. The DOH suggested a retail price of P28. The price of the mask procured by the government was P27.72, which was actually lower.)
President Rodrigo Duterte has since defended the procurement of COVID-19 supplies by the PS-DBM, noting that there was no corruption in the purchase as alleged by some senators.
Duterte had said the purchase of the PPEs was supported by the Government Procurement Reform Act and Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
Lliong echoed this and cited Section 4 (K) of Bayanihan 1, stating: "Undertake the procurement of the following as the need arises, in the most expeditious manner, as exemptions from the provisions of Republic Act No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act" and other relevant laws.
He also recalled that during that time, what was important was that the company could immediately deliver the medical supplies.
During the same hearing, Lliong was also asked if high-ranking officials from the Palace had influenced PS-DBM to procure supplies from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, to which he said: "Wala po [None]."
Lliong also denied that he is close with Senator Christopher "Bong" Go, whose name was tagged in the issue, as it was claimed before that former PS-DBM officer-in-charge Christopher Lao was supposedly his aide.
Lao was the officer-in-charge of PS-DBM when the controversial procurement took place.
Go, Duterte's trusted ally, has denied the allegation that he meddled in the transaction.
Lliong responded that he was not close to Go although he mentioned that he served as consultant when Duterte was still vice mayor of Davao City.
"Hindi po, in fact I was never under him," Lliong said. "I served as consultant of then Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Senator Bong Go was then... I don't know his official designation. But I was a consultant."
Lliong likewise dismissed the allegation that Go had directed the awarding of contracts to Pharmally, the small company that bagged billions of pesos worth of contracts from the government.
The Commission on Audit had flagged DOH's transfer of P42 billion funds to PS-DBM for the purchase of face masks and face shields at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corporation secured more than P8 billion worth of government contracts for the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPEs), which were believed to be overpriced.
Pharmally had a paid-up capital of only P650,000.
In a previous Senate inquiry, Pharmally president Huang Tzu Yen had admitted that the company borrowed money from former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang, the Chinese businessman who has since denied ties with the firm but said he had linked them to suppliers.
The Senate already directed the Anti-Money Laundering Council to inspect the bank records of Pharmally. —KBK/RSJ, GMA News