THE Department of Health (DoH) said it has uncovered anomalies in the multi-billion peso Barangay Health Station (BHS) project of the previous administration.
The P8.1-billion project was supposed to build 5,700 barangay (village) health stations to ensure the access of barangay residents to primary care, using public elementary schools as base stations.
“Heads will roll. Big names, small names, past and present. There will be no sacred cows. Heads will definitely roll,” Health Secretary Duque warned in a news briefing.
Duque said an investigation was launched in April following a 2017 Commission on Audit (CoA) report regarding the high level of suspicion on alleged anomalies in the procurement process, with officials of the DoH recommending payment without validation and financial requirements.
According to Performance Audit Report PAO-2017-05, the project “was obstructed by ineligible and non-workable project sites that were not fully validated before project contracting and implementation due to the absence of specific guidelines.”
The report also said the “delayed and non-completion of the total BHS contract again impacts on the procured equipment, which remain idle or undistributed to intended school-based BHS.”
The DoH chief has requested the office of the Ombudsman to conduct a fact-finding investigation to hold DoH officials accountable.
“I have initiated an investigation into alleged irregularities in the procurement and implementation of the School-based Barangay Health Station Project. I tried to give the persons involved the benefit of the doubt,” Duque said.
“I am beyond frustrated. I am saddened and disgusted that the Filipino people are being short-changed by the very people who were supposed to serve them,” he added.
Duque said he had submitted documents to the Senate, the House of Representatives and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), to allow them to issue requests and subpoenas to aid their own parallel investigations.
The Health Secretary also sent a formal request to CoA to conduct a fraud audit of the BHS project, as well as all other projects included in a P9.3-billion Special Allotment Release Order dated December 29, 2015.
“First order of business is to clean our house from within. I will continue instituting changes, including reorganization, in the coming days,” Duque said.
Former Health officials and former President Benigno Aquino 3rd have been charged for purchasing P3.5-billion worth of anti-dengue vaccines. The massive vaccination program was stopped after Sanofi Pasteur, maker of Dengvaxia, said the vaccine may cause severe dengue in those who have not been exposed to the dengue virus.
On Monday, Rep. Karco Nograles, head of the Appropriations panel, renewed his call on Sanofi Pasteur to refund the P3.5 billion amid the findings of New England Journal of Medicine that Dengvaxia is not safe for patients without dengue.
The Public Attorney’s Office had claimed that more than 50 people inoculated with Dengvaxia have died.
“Sanofi has rejected DoH’s request for a full refund multiple times now even if all Dengvaxia has caused is grief, if not anger, among Filipinos who served as their guinea pig. With this new finding, the government, thru the DoH, should press on in seeking the full refund,” Nograles said.
Sanofi returned P1.16 billion to the government for the unused doses of vaccine.
Nograles also called on the Senate to approve the P1. 16 billion supplemental budget for the Dengvaxia victims.
WITH LLANESCA T. PANTI