P10M-worth of equipment abandoned at N. Vizcaya hospital
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–About P10 million-worth of various medical equipment are now being left to rot at the Nueva Vizcaya Provincial Hospital (NVPH) in Bambang town, following the discovery of anomalies in its purchase, officials here have admitted.
The equipment, which include an operating table, a delivery table, an anesthesia machine, blood bank refrigerator, intensive care unit (ICU) monitor, operating room lights, were part of a P10-million purchase made by the provincial government for NVPH sometime in late 2009.
A source privy to the transaction, but who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the hospital apparatuses were delivered in April 2010 but the NVPH chief, Dr. Edwin Galapon, refused to accept them.
“It was highly questionable why the supplier was already given partial payment when there was no delivery made yet,” the source, a top-level official of the provincial government, said.
Even officials of the Development Bank of the Philippines in Solano town, the province’s main depositary bank, should also explain why the check was encashed despite the irregularities, the source said.
Health officials here said the funds used for the purchase came through a grant from the five-year Fourmula One program of the Department of Health.
According to a DOH primer, the program supposedly aimed at carrying out “reforms in the health sector and improving the delivery of health services to Filipinos, especially the poor”.
Nueva Vizcaya is one the the 16 provinces in the country that was given the Fourmula One funds, according to Galapon, acting provincial health officer.
Since April, the apparatuses, which should have been used to improve the provincial government-run hospital’s facilities, have been stored at the labor room at NVPH in Bambang.
The Commission on Audit here has ordered the freezing of full payment for the hospital equipment after it noted irregularities in the purchase, mostly missing bid documents, according to auditor Florentina Sagabaen.
The COA has directed 11 provincial officials and employees, led by Gov. Luisa Cuaresma to explain why partial payment of more than P4 million has been released to Medisafe Phils, Inc., the supplier, despite the failure of delivery of the equipment.
Sagabaen, however, said she would not discuss the case further, expressing concern that a full disclosure to the public might supposedly pre-empt the results of the COA investigation. She also denied a request by this writer for copies of documents involving the transaction.
“It seems that the purchase was fast-tracked and they (officials concerned) failed to follow government guidelines on procurement. As to what their reasons are, we are still waiting for their explanation,” she said.
In an interview, Galapon, also the acting provincial health officer here, said he refused to accept the equipment because these did not conform with quality standards required for hospital apparatuses by the Department of Health.
“For instance, the tables were wobbly and were made of aluminum instead of steel. Other equipment bore brands which are known to have inferior quality,” he said.
Galapon also noted that purchase documents were lacking, and that other papers were unsigned.
“Based on my personal assessment and knowledge of prevailing prices, I believe that these were also overpriced,” the health official added. He declined to elaborate.
Several attempts to reach Governor Cuaresma for comment proved futile. Manuel Tabora, provincial administrator, said she was at home in Bambang town attending to visitors.
Two officials who were involved in the deal, acting provincial treasurer Rhoda Moreno, and Eileen Dacuycuy, purchase officer, declined requests for interviews.
When asked to comment on the controversy, Tabora said they have decided to cancel the previous transaction involving the rejected equipment and would be conducting a “re-purchase”.
“We will be starting (the purchase procedure) from the beginning since the delivered equipment did not meet the requirements set by the end-user (NVPH),” he said.
“By doing so, there is no loss on the part of government, because the supplier has agreed to return the amount initially paid to them, except maybe for the delay in the usage of the equipment by patients,” he said.
When asked if they would abide by the COA directive, Tabora said a re-purchase would render the investigation “moot and academic”.