Way back during my growing up years, one of the games I liked most was “who stole the cookie from the cookie jar” because it kept met alert to dodge accusations.
The game starts with the group leader chanting: who stole the cookie from the cookie jar? I think number 1 (or whoever he fancies) stole the cookie from the cookie jar. The accused then denies “who me, not me!” The leader replies: “Not you? Then, who?”
This children’s play comes to mind with the sudden, or is it really sudden, departure of Budget and Management Secretary Wendel Avisado from his post because of alleged health reasons. The DBM chief, prior to his resignation, went on a two-week leave to isolate and recuperate after a positive diagnosis.
For cynical Senator Franklin Drilon, Avisado’s resignation is “especially troublesome” due to the apparent delay in the submission of the proposed 2022 General Appropriations Act, which is scheduled to be submitted only this week to the House of Representatives.
Drilon insinuated that the resignation “gives rise to a lot of speculation,” particularly amid the public outcry on the findings of the Commission on Audit on the P67.3 billion worth of alleged deficiencies of the Department of Health.
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Senator Richard Gordon, who has come out openly that he’s seeking the post of the next Palace resident, launched an investigation on the COA report. Center in the probe is the decision of the Health Department to transfer P42 billion of its COVID-19 funds to the DBM procurement service.
The amount was used by the DBM-Procurement Service (DBM-PS) headed by Lloyd Cristopher Lao, a former aide of Sen. Bong Go, to purchase the reportedly “overpriced” face masks and shields.
At the height of the pandemic last year, I bought my face shield from a drug store at P30, slightly higher compared to the P120 per piece purchase price of the DBM-PS.
Like Avisado, Lao resigned but for an unknown reason. From what I’ve heard, he exited DBM-PS days prior to the June 30 disclosure of the COA findings. Lao was reportedly informed that the "procurement of highly priced face masks and face shields" would be disallowed by COA and the disallowance would be made public.
Putting to question the reason and the timeliness of the COA report disclosure, the Health Secretary came out, teary-eyed, explaining the issue. I am not well versed on budget planning, but from what I’ve gathered, DBM-PS is the office authorized by law to "procure efficiently for other line agencies" certain items that the government needs.
Under the situation we’re in at the moment, funds are critical to address the virus concerns. Transferring is one thing, but allowing it is another. Can’t the DOH purchase all these essential items and instead allow DBM-PS to dip their hands into the cookie jar?
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