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Hontiveros calls for special audit of COVID-19 funds: Hindi dapat pinagkakakitaan ang krisis

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By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN

MANILA – Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros has urged state auditors to conduct a special audit of government spending for its response to the coronavirus pandemic under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

“Hindi dapat pinagkakakitaan ang COVID-19 crisis,” said Hontiveros.

Hontiveros together with other senators filed Senate Resolution No. 479, urging the Commission on Audit (COA) to conduct a special audit on all government spending related to Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan Act amid the socioeconomic impact brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Kailangan nating malaman kung ang tulong ba ay napunta para sa dapat tulungan,” Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros stressed that RA 11469 has allowed government to swiftly procure commodities, facilities, utilities and services deemed necessary for COVID-19 response with exemptions from the requirements of bidding as laid out in the Government Procurement Reform Act but various procurements made in relation to COVID-19 have been marred by allegations of overpricing.

“Through the Bayanihan Act, gave the government comprehensive powers, including the power to re-align and allocate billions of taxpayers’ money to respond to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Hontiveros.

SR 479 was also signed by Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Finance Committee Chair Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, and minority Senators Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, and Leila de Lima.

Hontiveros’ resolution cited the government purchase of automated nucleic acid extractors for P4 million against P1.75 million purchased by the private sector, personal protective equipment (PPE) sets of P1,800 when the market price ranges from P400 to P1,000, and the importation of more expensive RT-PCR test kits from China and Korea while cheaper Philippine-made ones are gathering dust in laboratories.

The said resolution also cited the purchase of allegedly overpriced PPE by the Procurement Services of the Department of Budget and Management [PS-DBM] and Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) “while many health workers and frontliners have fallen ill from the lack of adequate protective gear.”

“Sapat ba ang naging pondo para sa mga PPE? At kung sapat, bakit parang hindi napunta sa mga frontliners?” Hontiveros asked.

The resolution also urged COA to present its findings before Congress is set to deliberate on the 2021 national budget.

“It is of critical importance that there be audit findings to guide legislators in our exercise of the power of the purse,” the senator stressed.

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