LGUs playing subordinate role to national gov’t in vaccine procurement, Zubiri clarifies

Published February 12, 2021, 2:41 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Amid questions and concerns from the health sector, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Friday clarified the scope of Senate Bill 2042 that seeks to expedite procurement of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines by local government units (LGUs).  

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” F. Zubiri (Alexis Nueva España/Senate PRIB)

Zubiri’s statement released today follows:

“Senate Bill 2042 is not going to give LGUs (local government units) precedence over the national government in terms of vaccine procurement. National government pa rin ang masusunod (National government will still be followed)—LGUs still need to follow the national guidelines for vaccine deployment set by the Department of Health (DOH) and the National Task Force against COVID-19,” said Zubiri, principal author of SB 2042.

“So no one should fear inequitable distribution. Whether through the national government or the LGUs, our frontliners will still be prioritized for vaccination. The vaccines purchased by LGUs will augment the supply of the national government. LGUS who will not be able to purchase vaccines on their own will still be covered by the national government vaccine roll out.

“This bill was requested by all our LGUs. Around 70 local government units are in negotiations with vaccine suppliers and they need to deposit advance payments to secure them. Otherwise, we will lose the allocation. They are requesting that they also be exempted from the requirement of purchasing goods and services from suppliers with the lowest bid. This is not possible with the COVID-19 vaccine as it is supply-driven. It is impossible because the lowest price is not always available.

“In fact in the hearing yesterday, the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) disclosed that the Office of the President is also drafting a memorandum order that will authorize an increase in the advance payment for coronavirus vaccines. Under the Auditing Code and Memorandum Circular 172, Series of 2005, only a 15 percent advance payment is permitted. Under bill, the advance payment, particularly on COVID-19 vaccines, will be increased to 50 percent.

“Also, Section 338 of the Local Government Code prohibits advance payments, which states that ‘Sec. 338. Prohibitions Against Advance Payments. – No money shall be paid on account of any contract under which no services have been rendered or goods delivered,’’ he explained.

The bill exempts the LGUs from such provision for vaccine procurement for the duration of the state of national calamity or the pandemic, this is to speed up the roll-out of the national vaccination program.

“And let me stress again, this bill was requested by our LGUs, and it will only apply to our LGUs with tripartite agreement, which is facilitated by the national government. The procurement of the vaccines of the LGUs will still be under the ambit of the National Vaccination Program. So people do not need to worry about private entities taking advantage of this bill.”