The chairperson of the Senate economic affairs committee on Monday, August 30, sought the abolition of two big government offices whose responsibility of buying supplies for government agencies have been shrouded with reports that billions of pesos entrusted to them were unused or were spent needlessly for overpriced COVID 19-related medical supplies.
Senator Imee R. Marcos, committee chairwoman, said she would be drafting a bill that would abolish the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the Department of Budget and Management's Procurement Service (DBM-PS).
Marcos said the PITC had in its coffers P11 billion entrusted to it by government agencies such as the Department of National Defense (DND) for the purchases of military equipment and materials. It had not used but kept them for months or years.
Atop the pile is the DBM-PS which has P16 billion from the Department of Health (DOH) in unused funds.
Marcos said she also wanted to know the exact remainder of the P42 billion that the DOH had transmitted to DBM-PS for the purchase of COVID 19-related medical supplies.
Allegations of synchronized plunder were bandied about during a Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing in the bidding by PS-DBM where newly-registered and under-capitalized won billions of pesos worth of medical supplies.
Most of the officers of the winning corporations could no longer be located by subpoena servers of the Senate security office.
Since the Department has its corps of experts in the bidding and awarding of medical supplies, senators are wondering who ordered or pressured DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III into transmitting the DOH’s P42 billion COVID response funds to the DBM-PS.
During the Senate committee hearing last week, senators noted that resigned DBM-PS director and undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao had been uncooperative and refused to name his benefactor.
Marcos said her late father, President Marcos, created the PITC to buy oil from communist countries but this role is no longer needed since there is no more Cold War.
The DBM-PS was also created through a Letter of Instruction in the 70s for the purchase of supplies of common use.
Resigned DBM Secretary Wendel Avisado said the PS-DBM is independent from the DBM proper.
In the coming budget hearings, Marcos said she favors giving both PITC and PS-DBM a one peso a year budget.
Marcos said the billions of pesos that these two offices have not yet been obligated could be used to pay allowances and other benefits to health workers who threatened to stage protests or ambulance drivers, hospital cleaners and to nurses who threaten quit their jobs.
She is wondering why government had gone into borrowing from foreign institutions for its COVID-19 response funds when PITC and PS-DBM have billions of pesos in unobligated funds.