COA doubts validity of more than half of barangay health stations under Garin’s program

The Commission on Audit (COA) has questioned the validity of the bidding process for more than half of the barangay health stations (BHS) built under the P8.13-billion Tamang Serbisyo sa Kalusugan ng Pamilya (TSeKAP) project of the Aquino administration.

In its 2017 annual audit report, the COA said the Department of Health (DOH) began its bidding process on July 3, 2015, without waiting for the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) to be issued first.

This meant the P4.46-billion contract for the first phase of the program, covering 3,200 of the 5,700 school-based BHS units, was bidded out before the funds actually became available.

The DOH claimed that Section 4.2 of the Government Procurement Policy Board’s Circular No. 09-2015 allowed procurement processes to be held “short of award” pending the approval of funding.

The GPPB rule was meant to allow early procurement for projects to get a headstart in implementation before the enactment of the General Appropriations Act (GAA), as long as the budget was based on the levels indicated by the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) annual budget proposal called the National Expenditure Program (NEP).

Auditors said the TSeKAP contract would still not have complied with the GPPB circular since it was not included in the 2016 NEP and it was actually funded by “savings” from the 2015 Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF).

The COA said this issue “cast doubt on the regularity and validity of the bidding processes” of the contract eventually won by the joint venture of J. Bros Construction Corp. and Fujian Shongma Construction Engineering Co. Ltd.
In response, the DOH blamed the DBM and said it did not intend to source the funding for the program from the MPBF savings.

The DOH said it actually requested the DBM to use unprogrammed funds in the 2015 GAA, which was supposedly approved in a July 6, 2015 Cabinet meeting.

It justified its supposed lack of personal knowledge by saying it was “under no obligation to inquire as to the source, and in fact had no authority to question the decision or prerogative of the Office of the President and the DBM.”

The project was initiated during the stint of former Health Secretary Janette Garin and continued to be implemented under former Health Secretary Jean Paulyn Ubial.

After the COA issued a performance audit report focusing on the failure to complete the BHS units under the project last December, JBros terminated its contract in March and Heath Secretary Francisco Duque formed a fact-finding committee. Congressional inquiries were also initiated.

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