Garin: DOH main office a scapegoat in procurement irregularity?

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    ILOILO Rep. Janette Garin yesterday blew the whistle on what she called a scam in the procurement of expensive hospital equipment in government hospitals involving officials of the Department of Health (DOH), fabricated documents, and preference for an unproven brand.

    Health Secretary Duque assured Garin, herself a former health secretary, that he will immediately create a fact-finding body to deter mine who are involved in the transaction. She asked Garin to send documents directly to his office so he can facilitate the investigation and  pinpoint accountability.

    The alleged scam involved the DOH Western Visayas office. Duque has been under fire at the Senate  and the House for anomalies at the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth), the state medical insurer. Among issues being blamed on him are irregularities in the release of funds to hospitals under the interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM).

    Duque has said he was not directly in the IRM releases but senators who want him charged for the anomalies, being PhilHealth board chairman. At the House, Garin said she was tipped off that a brand of CT scan machine is being passed off as having been in the market for a long time even if agency officials admitted they  have not heard of it. She said the equipment was offered to a public hospital in her district in San Joaquin, Iloilo.

    She did not name the health officials involved. Testing DOH officials present at yesterday’s online budget hearing, Ga­rin asked whether anybody has heard of the Anke brand of CT scan. Only an official of DOH Region 6 (Western Visayas) acknowledged coming across the supplier’s name.

    “The rules say the equipment should have been in the market for at least five years. But it seems they falsified documents to make it appear they are compliant,” said Garin.

    Garin told Duque, “It is highly ir­regular that the DOH is insisting on this brand based only on the say-so of the supplier. Things like these should not be allowed to smear the reputation of the DOH central office.”

    She said regional directors have taken to pointing fingers at the cen­tral office when asked about certain transactions. “The standard response when some­thing goes wrong is: ‘That one is with the central office. We have not been notified. No memo has been issued.’ That is why you are getting all the blame in the midst of this pandemic,” Garin told Duque

    ‘Deceived’

    Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Duque “deceived” President Duterte when the former said the Sen­ate Committee of the Whole recom­mended that charges be filed against him despite the fact that he did not sign single document for the approval and release of IRM funds.

    Sotto made the remark after Duque told the President during a public ad­dress Monday night, that he (Duque) felt bad after charges were recommended. The Senate panel said PhilHealth officials made anomalous IRM reim­bursements since the cash advance program was meant for fortuitous events such as the “Marawi siege,” ty­phoon “Yolanda,” and the COVID-19 pandemic.

    It said PhilHealth included as beneficiaries dialysis centers and maternity clinics which should not have received IRM funds because PhilHealth has a separate program for them. Sotto said it is true that Duque does not have the authority to sign documents pertaining to the IRM releases because his job as PhilHealth chairman of the board is to “govern” the state insurer.

    “Hindi naman talaga siya dapat pumirma. Tignan mo doon lang, he is deceiving the President and the people. Wala naman nakalagay sa batas na dapat siya pumirma. Hindi nga rin siya dapat bumoto. Non-voting siya. Govern lang siya. To govern. (He is really not sup­posed to sign. It is that he is deceiving the President and the people. There is nothing in the PhilHealth law which states that he should have signed any­thing [in relation to IRM releases]. He is even not allowed to vote [in the passage of resolutions),” Sotto said.

    Sotto said Duque’s act of telling the President of his sentiments on the Senate panel recommendations “was part of his showmanship.” Sotto also said Duque’s deafening silence about PhilHealth anomalies is unacceptable.

    “Dapat galit na galit siya. Indignant dapat, di ba, at sinisisi niya. Kayo pa-i-imbestigahan ko kayo, ganyan. Ano ngayon ang sasabihin ng taongbayan? Hindi niya masabi yun, bakit? Involved siya (He must be very angry. He must be indignant and blame them [corrupt PhilHealth officials for the mess]. He must have them investigated. What will the people now think? He does not have the courage to say those things. Why? Because he is involved),” he added. — With Raymond Africa

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