THE provincial government of Siquijor purchased six thermal scanners last year at P45,000 each prompting government auditors to tag the transaction as overpriced on the ground that the Department of Health (DOH) set the price for the said item at only P599 to P3,400.
In the 2020 report on the Central Visayas province, the Commission on Audit demanded said it has issued an audit observation memorandum (AOM) dated May 10, 2021 requiring Siquijor’s Bids and Awards Committee to explain how it arrived at a much higher cost. “(T)he province paid an exorbitant price of P45,000 per unit, or a total of P270,000, unreasonably much higher than the price per unit of P3,400 pursuant to DOH Memorandum No. 2020-0131 dated March 23, 2020,” the COA said.
The audit team the six scanners should have only cost P20,400 hence there was a price difference of P249,600. Likewise, it noted that under Item 5 of the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) Circular No. 01-2020, it was mandatory for government agencies as procuring entities to “negotiate for the most advantageous price” and to be guided by the price indexes from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the DOH.
However, the disbursement voucher issued by the provincial government showed it set a budget of P65,000 per thermal scanner with the cost chargeable against the capital outlay budget of the Siquijor Provincial Hospital. The request for quotation was posted on the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS) on February 6, 2020 and three suppliers reportedly submitted their offers, one from Quezon City and two from Cebu City.
“Easa Pharma Distribution was declared the lowest calculated responsive bid with a price offer of P270,000 (at P45,000/unit) under BAC Resolution No. 044-02-2020,” the auditors said. They noted that the detailed specifications of the thermal scanners were not indicated in either the purchase order or the Acceptance Inspection Report.
Despite full delivery of six scanners, the audit team said only three were actually put in use. “The purchase price of P45,000 was unreasonably much higher,” the audit team stressed. COA Circular No. 2012-003 defined excessive expenditures as “unreasonable expense or expenses incurred at an immoderate quantity and exorbitant price.”
The COA required that Siquijor BAC to submit a justification why it set the approved budget for contract (ABC) at P65,000 per thermal scanner and to explain the price variance in comparison to the DOH price data. The provincial government claimed the BAC has always looked for deals that are “most advantageous to the government.” It said the thermal scanners it purchased were the “heavy duty” type while the items listed in the DOH Circular recommending price freeze on essential emergency items and medical devices were “ordinary non-contact thermometers and scanners.”
It said the kind it paid for can detect temperatures or thermal images/readings of both machines and humans similar to those used in airports and seaports. The audit team countered that it conducted an inspection of the thermal scanners to get the complete specifications which it used on an independent canvass for the same brand and similar features.
The price survey showed the gadgets were being sold at only P13,500 each. Records obtained by the auditors also showed the BAC members conducted a price verification on various online platforms only in March 2020, weeks after the purchase order was issued on February 11, 2020.