Senator wants proof of fiscal fitness prior to gov’t deals

    SEN. Francis Tolentino has filed a measure seeking to amend the Government Procurement Reform Act (RA 9184) and require aspiring government suppliers to first prove their financial capability before they are picked and awarded any contracts.

    The proposed Senate Bill 2433 will update Section 53 of RA 9184, or the provision on negotiated procurement.

    Tolentino, an ally of President Duterte, filed the bill amid the ongoing Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearings on the alleged irregular award of more than P11 billion worth of contracts to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, which only has a paid-up capital of P625,000.

    Under RA 9184, a negotiated procurement may be conducted by the government directly with suppliers or contractors “in case of extraordinary circumstances” on the condition that a private company is a capable supplier — technically, legally, and financially.

    Tolentino said the current law failed to provide guidelines to determine whether a supplier or contractor is has the financial capability to fulfill its contractual obligations.

    He added that the COVID-19 pandemic should be a wake-up call in determining the gaps in current laws.

    “The pandemic laid bare disparities in our laws, particularly those related to health care, travel, transportation, and procurement,” Tolentino said.

    Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said he supports “in principle” the calls of his fellow health professionals for Malacañang not to obstruct the ongoing Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearings on the alleged overpriced medical supplies bought by the government from Pharmally.

    Duque made the assertion as the Department of Health presented its 2022 budget proposal to the Senate committee on finance Wednesday afternoon.

    Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon asked Duque whether he supports the call of more than 300 health professionals for the Executive Department not to hamper the ongoing

    Senate inquiries after President Duterte issued an order prohibiting Cabinet members from attending the hearings.

    “Yes. To ferret out the truth. Yes, that’s my position…Yes, we do,” Duque said.

    Duque, however, said that while he supports his fellow health professionals, the DOH and other Cabinet members “still have to attend and focus as well on the demands of the state of public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

    He suggested that certain adjustments in schedule be made by the Senate committee so that Cabinet members can still attend to their respective works and attend to Senate hearings “as we do not want to be pictured as paralyzing the COVID-19 efforts.”

    “I’d like to express my appreciation for saying that a reasonable adjustment can be done and at the same time make sure that we can do our job,” Duque said.

    Drilon welcomed Duque’s suggestion.

    “If you can suggest that to the Executive Secretary (Salvador Medialdea) and call our Blue Ribbon, I think you would be able to contribute on this issue between the executive and the Senate,” Drilon added.