COA flags DOH’s procurement of ₱1.93B worth of COVID-19 vax, project needs

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 7) – The Commission of Audit (COA) flagged the Department of Health (DOH) for lapses in its procurement of ₱1.93 billion worth of COVID-19 vaccines as well as materials and services for projects, resulting in “doubtful payment transactions” and “significant delays in project completion.”

One DOH acquisition which failed to comply with the Government Procurement Reform Act included an agreement for five million doses of Sputnik V, and Gamaleya COVID-19 vaccine.

COA said that deal limited the liability of the vaccine supplier in the event of a delay in its delivery, placing the Philippine government at a disadvantage.

Confidentiality provisions of the procurement of the Sputnik V and Gamaleya shots, as well as one million doses of Sinovac, deprived the DOH of the benefits of independent audit of government contracts and disregarded transparency and accountability to the public, COA pointed out in its 2022 annual audit.

It even noted that the copy of the agreement for the payment of the one million Sinovac doses was not signed by all parties involved, nor was the date of its effectivity indicated.

However, the COA in its audit did not disclose how much the vaccine procurement cost.

Furthermore, auditors noted that drugs, medicines, and other types of inventories worth ₱7.4 billion were found to be expired or close to it, damaged, overstocked, understocked, delayed in distribution and even undistributed due to deficiencies in procurement planning.

Expired and nearly-expired vials of COVID-19 vaccines were observed within DOH facilities in Region I (361 expired; 6,425 nearly-expired), III (261,138 expired), VI (5,551 nearly expired), VIII (1.671,878 expired), and XIII (104,962 expired).

Outside of COVID-19 vaccine acquisition, other procedural deficiencies committed by the DOH for its projects included inappropriate modes of procurement, inadequate procurement planning and training, delays in the processing of acquisitions, lack of required documents, and lapses in contract implementation.

As a result, the COA recommended that Health Secretary Ted Herbosa discontinue the practice of entering supply agreements which waive supplier liability in case of delay or non-delivery, and those with non-disclosure agreements which hinder proper government audits.

It also urged the agency to ensure that documents pertaining to supply agreements be complete in order to establish authenticity.