“Special Action to Take: Senators are Requesting for COVID-19 Budget Audits”

COVID-19 Budget

A host of senators encourage state auditors to conduct a special review of all government spending COVID-19 under the Bayanihan to Recover as One-Act. Senator Risa Hontivers and six other senators gave the call through Senate Resolution No. 479, which urged the Audit Commission (COA) to submit its findings before Congress concluded its deliberations on the proposed national budget for 2021.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Senate Finance Committee Chair Senator Sonny Angara and Senators Panfilo Lacson, Francis Pangilinan, and Leila de Lima are among the other signatories of the resolution. Earlier this year Congress granted the government sweeping powers through the Bayanihan Act, including the power to re-align and distribute billions of taxpayers ‘ money to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

The Bayanihan Act, which expired in June, allowed the government to quickly procure goods, equipment, utilities and services that were deemed necessary for the response to coronavirus disease in 2019 without the bidding process needed as set out in the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Yet numerous procurements made have been marred by over-pricing charges, Hontiveros noted. She quoted the P4-million price tag as automated nucleic acid extractors procured by the government against the P1.75 million purchased by the private sector; PPE sets a value of P1.800 each while the market price ranges from P400 to P1.000; as well as the importation of more costly RT-PCR test kits from China and Korea while cheaper Philippine-made ones accumulate dust in labs.

Hontiveros’ resolution also cited the procurement of allegedly overpriced EPPs by the Procurement Services of the Budget and Management Department [PS-DBM] and the Philippine International Trading Corporation [PITC] because many health staff and frontline employees have fallen ill from the lack of appropriate protective equipment.

They reminded us that this health crisis does not encourage us to lighten our responsibilities. People will be able to trust the government that no one is filling taxpayers’ pockets.

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