Senate to grill DOH over 'overpriced' ambulances

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 3) — Lawmakers are set to interrogate health officials over the government's purchase of allegedly overpriced ambulances, Senator Panfilo Lacson said on Friday.

He alleged that the purchases were overpriced by ₱1 million per ambulance.

"I checked the official records of such procurement — one by the Department of Health, the other by the local government unit. The difference in their purchase prices are too glaring to ignore," he told reporters.

He said DOH records were compared to the orders of local government units for similar ambulances. The senator said DOH bought an ambulance with Automated External Defibrillator for ₱2.5 million per unit. LGUs purchased the same ambulance vehicle without the defibrillator — worth around ₱300,000 — for ₱1.27 million.

In an interview with INQside Look, he said there was an "overprice" of ₱1 million per unit with the "padded" amount.

DOH defended the purchase, saying the deal was awarded to the lowest bidder.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the agency bought Type 1 ambulances, which are equipped with machines and other medical supplies. She explained the amount also covered the training of the driver and health workers who would man the ambulance.

"Ito ay isang complete package ng nilagay natin sa specs. Iyong presyo na binigay natin at nakuha natin ay lowest calculated bid po iyan. Pinadaan po iyan sa proseso ng aming bidding and awards committee. We are very transparent in this process," she said in a media briefing.

[Translation: This is a complete package of what was indicated in the specifications. The price that we received is the lowest calculated bid. It went through our bidding and awards committee. We are very transparent in this process.]

Lacson said the DOH has distributed 98 ambulance units to Calabarzon alone. The agency has yet to say how many units it purchased and how much was spent.

The senator said he will raise the issue during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee's inquiry into DOH's alleged irregularities in the management of public funds on Sept. 7 or during budget deliberations.

CNN Philippines correspondent Eimor Santos contributed to this report.