Duque: Probe underway on allegedly overpriced COVID-19 gear

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 26 2020 01:34 PM | Updated as of May 26 2020 03:41 PM

FILE: Health Sec. Francisco Duque

MANILA (UPDATE) -- Health Secretary Francisco Duque said Tuesday the government was investigating the procurement of allegedly overpriced COVID-19 test kits and protective gear.

The health and budget departments have secured procurement documents to "reconcile the numbers," Duque told a Senate hearing.

A Senate Committee of the Whole hearing earlier found that the DOH bought nucleic acid extractors used to process coronavirus tests for P4 million each, while a private company availed of similar equipment at P1.75 million each.

In the same hearing last week, the Philippine Health Insurance Corp was also questioned about why it offered a COVID-19 testing package for P8,000, when the Philippine Red Cross only charges about P3,000 per kit.

Senate Health Committee chair Christopher "Bong" Go said the DOH should "not allow corruption and abusive business practices [that] take advantage of the vulnerabilities of Filipinos."

"In times of crisis, every peso counts... We are fighting for survival," he said.

Senator Risa Hontiveros told the DOH to immediately "constitute" an Independent Price Negotiation Board, a body authorized under the Universal Healthcare Act to broker prices of medical supplies in behalf of the government.

Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan earlier said that the Senate should investigate the issue to check for connivance among government agencies involved in the procurement.

"We will still push for a Senate investigation into the overpriced testing kits and testing machines. Did somebody earn off it and if yes, who? Is there collusion among the DoH, DBM, PhilHealth and other agencies?" Pangilinan said in a statement.

"These should be exposed because the life and safety of millions of our people are put in danger and are swapped for overpriced health equipment," he said.