DOH probes alleged overpriced ambulances

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 21) — Investigation is underway in relation to the alleged overpriced ambulances and their components, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Thursday.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the agency is awaiting copies of documents Senator Panfilo Lacson presented during the Senate budget hearing showing the alleged overpriced components of the procured ambulances.

"The investigation has actually commenced but we are awaiting the documents as mentioned by Senator Lacson so he can help us put together the basis for possible, you know, if there's a complaint that can be filed against erring officers or employees of the department," he told reporters.

Lacson earlier disclosed the Health department purchased 841 ambulances distributed to different parts of the country since 2019.

He said each ambulance may be overpriced by one million pesos, which means the government may have lost around ₱841 million from these procurements.

"Alam mo Secretary Duque, hindi naman namin kayo pinagbibintangan dito, kaya lang these are public funds. Ako personally, I augmented the budget of the HPEP kasi nga para maging compliant na ito sa Universal Health Care Law," the senator said during Wednesday's budget hearing.

[Translation: Secretary Duque, we are not accusing you of anything but these are public funds. I personally augmented budget of HPEP precisely because it has to be compliant with the Universal Health Care Law.]

"Then somehow, I feel guilty when I see some overpricing in the procurement of the equipment," he added.

The senator exposed the supposed overpriced components of the ambulances.

For example, in Calabarzon, the DOH submitted prices for two mobile phones with SIM cards at ₱30,000 but Lacson said local government units bought phones with similar specifications for only ₱7,998.

The agency also bought dashboard cameras for ₱15,000 each but the retail price for the item is only ₱4,500.

The automated external defibrillator (AED) the DOH bought cost ₱165,000 each but the retail price is ₱96,500.

"Dinetalye ko lang mga [I have detailed the] individual prices of each of the Basic Life Support equipment, like the two mobile phones with SIM cards, dashboard camera, stretcher, AED etc para makita ng committee and the public kung paano nagkaroon ng overprice [so the committee and the public may know how it became overpriced]. What I did was to canvass the retail prices of the individual equipment brand to brand just to make sure that we are comparing apples to apples," Lacson told CNN Philippines in a text message.

Duque said purchase of the ambulances was done by the regional offices.

He said he ordered the department's investigating team to compare the prices of the 30 components of ambulances with the prevailing retail prices or with the LGU-procured prices.

CNN Philippines tried to reach DOH-Calabarzon for comment and it is still awaiting an official response.