Tricycle riders undergo mass testing using rapid test kits for COVID-19 on May 19, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — The Philippines lost P422 million in potential savings due to the government’s purchase of supposedly overpriced test kits, a senator said Tuesday.

The emergency purchase by the budget department involved 3 “negotiated contracts”, and not open bidding, said Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.

These were P422 million more expensive than the test kits brought by private clinics because the agency was in a hurry and had no direct access to foreign suppliers, forcing it to rely on local suppliers of imported materials, he said.

“Sa aming pag-aaral, halos P500 milyon ang nawala sa ating pamahalaan,” the senator told ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo.

(In our study, our government lost almost P500 million.)

“Kahit po emergency, kahit negotiated, hindi po justification iyan for the overpriced… Kailangan din ang tinatawag natin na due diligence, gumawa tayo ng paraan para makakuha ng the best price dahil pera po ng taumbayan ito,” he added.

(Even if it is an emergency purchase, a negotiated contract, that is not a justification for overpricing. Due diligence is needed, we should find a way to get the best price because that is the people’s money.)


Drilon also said a blacklisted firm won about a P700-million contract for personal protective equipment (PPE).

“Ang sabi nila (budget department) hindi namin napansin dahil mukhang ang na-blacklist ay single proprietor, pero ang nag-bid, ang korporasyon,” said the lawmaker. “Medyo malabo po iyan dahil pareho naman naka-pangalan.”

(They said they did not notice it because it was the single proprietor that was blacklisted, while it was the corporation that made the bid. That is a bit impossible because both are named.)
The contract was later canceled, he said.

Drilon said he asked the budget department to submit a list of all its pandemic-related contracts, which he would scrutinize.

“Kung mayroong sapat na ebidensya, aking pong hilingin ang Blue Ribbon Committee na mag-imbestiga nito,” he said.

(If there is enough evidence, I will ask the Blue Ribbon Committee to investigate this.)