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House to grill Garin, Abad on Barangay Health Stations fund

Members of the House committee on good government and public accountability bared they will again invite former Health Secretary Janette Garin and former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to their next meeting to clarify several contentious issues surrounding the funding and implementation of the Barangay Health Stations (BHS) project of the Department of Health (DoH) in 2015, amounting to P9.3 billion.
The committee is conducting an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into House Resolution 360 to determine which agency is more competent to implement the Barangay Health Stations nationwide within the premises of public elementary schools.
Based on reports, the BHS construction in school premises has yet to be fully completed and is not yet operational to date. In evaluating which is more competent to implement the BHS construction, it would be wiser to give the task to the Department of Public Works and Highways, said Rep. Estrellita Suansing.
But in the course of the hearing, committee members realized it was not just a simple matter of identifying the proper implementing agency for the BHS. Several contentious issues surfaced which were related to the funding of the BSH and their construction.
For instance, the bidding for the BSH project in 2015 was done in September that year even if it did not have a budget in the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA), specifically under the DoH budget.
DoH finance officer Laureano Cruz said the funding source of the project was a SARO (Special Allotment Release Order) released by Department of Budget and Management on Dec. 29, 2015 in the amount of P9.3 billion.
Asked by lawmakers what was the source of the fund, Cruz said the SARO did not indicate the funding source. “Based on the SARO release, there was no specific funding source, except it was written, nakalagay ‘regular agency fund 2015 GAA.’ Wala na pong ibang nakalagay sa SARO,” Cruz said.
Dr. Rio Magpantay, then the vice chairman of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), said they advertised the project in July 2015 then conducted the bidding in September 2015.
Mindoro Oriental Rep. Salvador Leachon said the process was “out of line, scandalous, unacceptable irregularity of a multi-billion procurement project.”
Magpantay said they conducted the bidding short of award. But Leachon said short of award is properly exemplified by the DPWH.
Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay said only the former DBM Secretary would know where the money came from.
“May we invite both former Secretaries Garin and Abad to enlighten us about the sources of fund because you know, this is a big amount of money. And it must have come from the savings, and when it comes to savings we have to identify savings of which agency. If this is not the savings of the DoH but the savings of other agencies then it is illegal. This is not right. This is illegal. We are all aware the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court,” Pichay said.
Suansing asked if the P9.3- billion budget mentioned in the SARO dated Dec. 29, 2015 was part of the DoH budget. Cruz said it was not included in the DoH 2015 budget.
Suansing said Page 1185 of the Official Gazette, which is about the 2015 national budget, states that “Provided the amount of P3,696,174.00 appropriated herein for the construction, upgrading and expansion of Local Government Units (LGU) healthcare facilities shall be released directly to the DPWH” while Page 1154 of the Official Gazette, about the 2016 national budget, states: “Provided furthermore, DPWH constructs LGU healthcare facility only if lots are already owned, acquired by the government.”
With these provisions clearly mandating the DPWH to construct and upgrade LGU healthcare facilities, Suansing asked why the DoH implemented the BSH project. She said this was a violation of the provisions of the 2015 and 2016 GAAs she mentioned.
Abesamis said the request for funding was made on June 15, 2015 through a letter of Garin to the DBM, stating the DoH is respectfully submitting the list of health facilities for implementation of the DoH chargeable against the Health Facilities Enhancement Program in the amount of P8.193 billion and unprogrammed fund in the amount of P10.6 billion, both of CY 2015 GAA. “The unprogrammed fund is based on the available balance from sin tax not located in the DoH budget,” she said.
Among the items for funding cited were the school-based BSH, other requests for infrastructure and equipment.
Antipolo City Rep. Romeo Acop noted the notice of award for the project was issued on the same day the SARO was released which was on Dec. 29, 2015, based on the timeline.
“Upon receipt of the SARO it was awarded, is this regular?” he asked.
Acop also cited the problem of unavailability of construction sites for the BSH because some of these spaces were reserved for school classrooms. He also cited a Commission on Audit report about non-existent BHS which were overrun by lahar. 

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