Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged Congress to investigate the Department of Health’s (DOH) alleged poor distribution of medicines and other supplies to exact accountabilities from parties involved and address problems in its procurement and distribution mechanisms.
De Lima, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 539 directing the appropriate Senate committee to look into the Commission on Audit (COA) report showing ₱2.2 billion worth of expired or overstocked drugs, medicines, and other supplies in the inventory of the DOH.
“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,” she said.
“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 added.
The said audit reported that expiring medicines accounted for ₱29.95 million, while overstocked or slow-moving items accounted for ₱1.144 billion, and nearly expired drugs cost ₱1.024 billion
COA attributed the issue to what it called “poor procurement planning, inefficient and uncoordinated transfer or distribution, and lack of monitoring and proper storage.”
In filing SR No. 539, De Lima noted that this is not the first time that the DOH had been flagged by COA for its over-procurement and poor distribution of medicine.
In July 2019, according to COA’s annual audit report, the DOH, as of 31 December 2018, had ₱18.449 billion worth of medicine purchased from 2015 to 2018 which had yet to be distributed to government hospitals, health centers and other government treatment facilities.
“These inefficiencies, which have long been prevalent within the DOH, are unacceptable, as it is the primary agency tasked with safeguarding public health,” said De Lima.
“Mantakin ninyo, habang namamatay na lamang sa paghihintay para sa libreng gamot ang mga kababayan nating nakaratay sa banig ng karamdaman, heto ang DOH na hinayaan lang masayang ang mga gamot na dapat sana’y nagdugtong sa kanilang mga buhay! Anong klaseng liderato meron ang ahensyang ito? Puro kapalpakan at pugad ng katiwalian!”, stated De Lima in her Dispatch from Crame No. 936.
De Lima said that the DOH should be prudent and diligent in spending government funds by limiting procurement to supplies urgently and immediately needed for the current year.
“The DOH must conduct judicious and meticulous procurement planning to prevent expiration and insufficiency of supplies,” she said.
“There is a need to conduct a thorough review of the DOH’s procurement contracts to see if expired medicines could still be returned to and replaced by suppliers,” she added.
To maximize the DOH’s efficiency, De Lima also underscored the need to re-evaluate the agency’s internal procedures on custodianship, issuance, and stock level monitoring to avoid further expiring purchases.
“An investigation is needed in order 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,” said she. (30)