Lacson wants procurement of medicines devolved to LGUs

Published November 10, 2021, 7:28 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Wednesday, Nov. 10 said it is high time that the government devolve its procuremnet of supplies and implementation of projects to the local government units (LGUs) as national agencies have shown bad procurement decisions, including the transfer of P42-billion to the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service (DBM-PS).

Lacson said such practice had allowed shady firms—such as the Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.—to bag multi-billion peso contracts despite lack of qualifications.

“Why don’t we devolve the procurement of medicines, drugs and other items? It’s about time. Time and again we have witnessed bad procurement by the DOH (Department of Health) and other line agencies,” Lacson said during Senate deliberation on the P5.024-trillion budget for 2022 on Nov. 10.

Lacson, who is running for president in the upcoming May 2022 national elections, pointed out that LGUs are in the best position to determine their constituents’ needs and priorities.

“We’re now again putting in at least P30-billion under the House version of the budget bill to purchase drugs, medicines, medical and dental supplies. I’ve nothing against procurement of drugs and medicines but if we’re wasting money for the procurement of nearly expired or expiring drugs, what’s the sense of spending a lot of money?” the senator pointed out.

The senator also noted that devolving the procurement of LGUs is better as shown in the purchase of ambulances with basic life support equipment.

Lacson noted that while the DOH procured 841 ambulances at P2.5-million each, the LGUs managed to procure ambulances with similar specifications only at P1.5-million each.

“The procurement by the national agency was much more expensive, and it bought 841 units,” Lacson said.

He also said it is time that the government unload from the national agencies the burden of involving themselves in the construction of smaller projects and just give it to the LGUs.

In the past budgets, the lawmaker said the recommendations of the LGUs, as contained in their local development plans, were mostly disregarded by as much as 80 percent.

At the time, he said then Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado issued a circular that without formal endorsement from the Regional Development Councils, the DBM will not release funds to the agencies involved.

“Why not unburden the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Transportation (DOTr) and other agencies so they can focus on big-ticket projects instead of involving themselves in smaller projects?” he pointed out.

Lacson added devolving such functions would also be in line with the Supreme Court’s Mandanas-Garcia ruling granting more internal revenue allotments to LGUs.

“If we don’t start now, I don’t think we can comply with the Mandanas ruling,” he warned.