MANILA - The Commission on Audit (COA) has found former Government Service Insurance System(GSIS) president and general manager Winston Garcia and nine other ex-officials liable for the unauthorized purchase of P25.132 million worth of anti-bird flu virus medicine in 2006.
In a decision dated July 4, COA denied the petition that Garcia, along with former GSIS Board of Trustees (BOT) members Bernardino Abes and Reynaldo Palmiery, filed seeking a review of the notice of disallowance.
Other officials held liable but who did not file a review petition were BOT members Jesse Andres, Daniel Gutierrez, Jesus Santos, Angel Concepcion Jr., Esperanza Fallorina, Concepcion Madarag, and Consuelo Manasala.
The earlier disallowance COA issued stemmed from the appropriation of Oseltamivir capsules, which are to be manufactured into Tamiflu brand by United Laboratories Inc. for use by GSIS employees, members, and their dependents during the bird flu outbreak at the time.
The decision, signed by COA Chairperson Michael Aguinaldo and Commissioners Jose Fabia and Roland Pondoc, said the former GSIS officials may face charges for their actions.
“The Prosecution and Litigation Office, Legal Services Sector, this Commission, is hereby directed to forward the case to the Office of the Ombudsman for investigation and filing appropriate criminal and/or administrative charges, if warranted, against the persons liable for the transaction,” the decision read.
It was emphasized in the COA decision that the procurement of medicines for the treatment of bird flu is the job of the health secretary and that the GSIS fund is a social insurance fund to finance the benefits of its members.
“The procurement of medicines for the treatment of afflicted GSIS members is not a benefit that is being administered by GSIS,” the decision said.
It was also stressed in the decision that even if GSIS got authorization to procure the medicine, the supplier was awarded the contract without the requisite public bidding.
The officials involved had insisted that the stockpiling of Oseltamivir capsules, which were done in good faith, fall within their powers and mandate.
“As the governing board of GSIS, the BOT cannot feign ignorance of the provisions of the laws,” COA said.
Meanwhile, BOT members Esperanza Ocampo and Raymundo Lapating were spared from liability as they were absent when the resolution to purchase the medicines was approved.