Senator Leila de Lima has filed a resolution calling for a legislative inquiry on the P2.2-billion worth of medicine and supplies that were overstocked by the Department of Health (DOH).
In filing her Senate Resolution No. 539, the opposition senator hit the DOH’s “poor” procurement and distribution of medicines and other supplies that ended up languishing in its warehouses, according to state auditors.
“The DOH, as the most crucial government agency in our pandemic response, should be functioning as efficiently as possible in order to safeguard the health and well-being of Filipinos,” De Lima said.
The Commission on Audit (COA) said some P2.2 billion worth of expired, nearly expired and overstocked medicines, medical and supplies piled up in the DOH’s storage facilities due to “poor” procurement planning, monitoring, storage and management of the purchased goods.
But De Lima noted that this was not the first time that the COA flagged the DOH for over-procurement and poor distribution, recalling an audit report finding that P18.4 billion worth medicines bought from 2015 to 2018 had yet to be given to government health facilities.
“The problems with over-procurement and poor distribution of medicines and other medical supplies seem to be systemic as it predates the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic and cannot be attributable to the strict lockdowns imposed by the national government to contain the spread of the virus,” she said.
“These inefficiencies, which have long been prevalent within the DOH, are unacceptable, as it is the primary agency tasked with safeguarding public health,” she added.
De Lima underscored the need to re-evaluate the agency’s internal procedures on custodianship, issuance, and stock level monitoring to avoid further expiring purchases. She also sought to know if the expired medicines could still be returned to and replaced by suppliers.
“An investigation is needed to determine the causes of these delays and inefficiencies in order to exact accountability from the parties involved and ensure government transparency in the management and utilization of public funds,” she said.