PhilHealth chief endorsed 'overpriced' IT projects, says official

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 4) — The head of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. had a hand in the approval of a "bloated" budget for the agency's IT equipment and software, a board member of the state firm alleged Tuesday.

PhilHealth board member Alejandro Cabading, in a testimony at the hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole, said the agency's President and CEO Ricardo Morales approved hefty allocations for IT expenses even if some items in the budget were not approved by the Department of Information and Communications Technology.

Cabading, a certified public accountant, brought up the inclusion of identical IT purchases from 2018 and 2019 which were also listed in the 2020 proposed budget.

He noted that the Commission on Audit had earlier questioned similar irregularities under the IT projects.

He bared in his presentation that some of the overpriced software and equipment include ₱21 million for Adobe Master Collection software, ₱42 million for identity management software, ₱21 million for office productivity software, and ₱25 million for application server, virtualization licenses and support maintenance.

Cabading said he tried to bring such budget irregularities to the board, but noted: "The most frustrating part is the management seems to be tolerating such fraudulent acts."

Former anti-fraud legal officer Thorrsson Montes Keith, who resigned last month due to what he said was "widespread corruption" at PhilHealth, claimed some of the corporation's executives stole ₱15 billion from the agency using different fraudulent schemes.

He said all members of the executive committee were involved in a "mafia" syndicate which has prolonged the culture of corruption in the embattled agency.

He also accused Morales of using him to negotiate with the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission to "rub down" the issue on overpriced COVID-19 test kits.

Morales denies allegations

Meanwhile, Morales denied that there were any irregularities in the IT budget proposal which amounts to ₱2.1 billion in total.

"Information technology is a very complicated system," Morales reasoned.

Morales had also denied numerous accusations from Keith, claiming that the latter was only making up issues due to his rejected application for promotion.

The PhilHealth chief also insisted that he was not a "coddler" or protector of smugglers in the agency.

However, he did admit that there is fraud in the agency, and called for support and guidance, instead of criticisms.

"PhilHealth needs help, it has taken too many body blows. Tulungan ho natin ang PhilHealth. Kung maaari, 'wag nating pagtulungan (Let us help PhilHealth, and if possible, do not gang up on us.)"