Daily obfuscation

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    ‘They probably are not aware of it, but the daily obfuscation is just worsening the situation—it will continually eat away whatever confidence the people have left when it comes to the efforts of government to roll out a massive vaccination program.’

    YOU have to admit—government procurement is one of the most technical and tedious processes one will encounter when joining the public service. There are strict rules to be followed, which essentially should ensure that any centavo to be disbursed is spent properly. However, the technicalities involved can and do give rise to opportunities to game the system, which is why we see government employees get in hot water when it comes to project biddings, project cost, favoring suppliers or contractors, etc.

    Thankfully, my former post in government did not have any direct need for procurement matters, as everything was taken cared of by the larger Bid and Awards Committee of our department. As such, my exposure was only limited to preparing the budget proposal for our tiny office, guided by the able career servants in the Office of the President who were certainly more knowledgeable when it came to matters of administration and finance.

    Perhaps the most publicly known procurement-related scandal in the recent decade was the Napoles pork barrel scam, where the suspected perpetrators, in alleged conspiracy with legislators, devised a devious system to circumvent checks and balances in order to divert public funds to their own pockets.

    Perhaps the most basic question when it comes to procurement is: How much? What is the cost of the entire project, or what is the cost per unit of a certain item to be procured? And, by force of the prevailing laws on procurement, is it the most inexpensive among the items of the same class that qualified?

    That is why it is amazing to watch all the squirming of the resource persons at the recent investigation of the Senate regarding the government’s COVID-19 vaccination plans. Apart from the discovery that their chosen vaccine (Sinovac) has not even applied for EUA (emergency use authorization) with the Philippine FDA, I found it very, very strange that none of the resource persons were able to flat out say the acquisition price per dose. I also don’t buy the feeble excuse that the arrangement is covered by a confidentiality agreement; if this were the case, your typical NDA will cover even mentioning that you have something in the works with the other party.

    If the administration really wants to counter what they brand as propaganda when it comes to the acquisition price of the Sinovac vaccine, then they should just come out and give the amount — with the corresponding proof, of course. It’s a legitimate question to ask how Indonesia is able to buy the Sinovac vaccines at a rate lower than is being touted on social media and traditional media reports. What is the figure, really? And what is truly stopping them from making this figure public?

    All this huffing and puffing and bitching about fake news is just performative obfuscation if the administration does not provide a singular hard fact to prove their point. I can imagine that it would be the easiest thing in the world to slap your detractors in the face with the requisite paperwork to shut them up. But alas, the administration and its propagandists choose to obfuscate the issue with statements designed to provoke anyone with a working brain, thus these obvious attempts to dodge and deflect instead of providing concrete answers.

    They probably are not aware of it, but the daily obfuscation is just worsening the situation—it will continually eat away whatever confidence the people have left when it comes to the efforts of government to roll out a massive vaccination program. In the end, they are shooting themselves in the foot, but whether they actually care or not is another story.