MANILA — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III expressed shock and disbelief as he unravels a multi-billion irregularity in one of the Department of Health (DOH)’s projects, the construction of school-based Barangay Health Stations (BHS).
The primary and the noble goal of the BHS project is to build a functional barangay health station, accredited by PhilHealth, to ensure access of every barangay to primary care, using public elementary schools as identified sites.
In line with the President’s unrelenting campaign against graft and corruption at all levels of government, Duque initiated his own investigation within DOH due to a high level of suspicion, following the reports on alleged anomalies in the procurement process; audit findings by the Commission on Audit; and officials of the DOH recommending payment without validation and financial document requirements.
The DOH Executive Committee directed to convene a task force in April 2018 to establish the facts. The task force came up with a report, affirming the irregularities cited in the 2017 COA Performance Audit Report on Health Facilities Enhancement Programs, in addition to other irregularities discovered in the project.
The COA Performance Audit Report said “the project establishing 5,700 Barangay Health Stations (BHS) in public schools in 2015 and 2016 was obstructed by ineligible and non-workable project sites that were not fully validated before project contracting and implementation due to absence of specific guidelines. […] Delayed and non-completion of the total BHS contracted again impacts on the procured equipment which remain idle or undistributed to intended school-based BHS.”
Duque was shocked by the volume of irregular transactions happening at the health department.
As the DOH established the facts on the procurement of the BHS, Duque has requested the Office of the Ombudsman to conduct a fact-finding investigation to hold responsible officials accountable for the alleged anomaly in the procurement and implementation of the PHP8.1 billion 2-phase BHS Project.
“I have initiated an investigation on 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 told reporters.
“I am beyond frustrated. I am saddened and disgusted that the Filipino people are being shortchanged by the very people who were supposed to serve them,” he said.
Duque said other controversies are hounding the DOH and he has ordered a meticulous review of all transactions entered into by the previous administrations.
The DOH has also submitted documents to the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, which issued requests and subpoenas to aid their own parallel investigation.
Duque has also sent a formal request to COA to conduct a fraud audit of the BHS project, as well all other projects included in the PHP9.3 billion Special Allotment Release Order dated December 29, 2015.
Duque said he will ensure full cooperation and transparency of the DOH in the ongoing investigations, as well as appropriate legal actions against erring officials.
“Heads will roll. Big names, small names, past and present. There will be no sacred cows. Heads will definitely roll,” he said.
“First order of business is to clean our house from within. I will continue instituting changes, including reorganization, in the coming days,” Duque said. (DOH PR)