Politics

Vaccine contracts ready for audit, says Galvez

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PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

THE PREVIOUS administration’s COVID response task force head said on Wednesday they are prepared to have the Commission on Audit (CoA) examine vaccine procurement contracts currently under investigation by the Senate due to non-disclosure.

Peace Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., who was chief of the COVID team of former President Rodrigo R. Duterte, said they will abide by the constitutional right of state auditors.

“We are ready to have it audited by the CoA,” Mr. Galvez said during the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Wednesday.

Former Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III emphasized that his department had never refused to subject the vaccine agreements to audit.

“We have never indicated that the vaccine agreements are exempt from audit,” he said. “The CoA has the jurisdiction to audit all government accounts, these vaccine supply agreements are no exception.”

“While the details could not be publicly divulged in keeping with our confidentiality obligations, these may be duly audited in compliance with government procedures,” he added.

Mr. Dominguez noted that in June 2021, they offered to disclose to senators the details of the agreement in an executive session to comply with the instructions of the upper chamber while honoring the confidentiality commitments under the contract.

Members of the previous Senate declined, saying the average prices provided were enough.

Health Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario S. Vergeire, who was also one of the key members of the COVID team, said the health department is “very much willing to be subjected to audits.”

She said the department itself officially communicated to the CoA for audits that can be done for the national vaccine deployment program.

Former Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said that in November 2021, the department requested the CoA to conduct a special audit on the vaccine procurement transactions as part of their obligation under the loan agreements with the Asian Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the World Bank.

“It’s not a question whether we would like to subject such contracts to CoA audit, it is our obligation, very clearly stipulated under the loan agreements entered into by the Philippine government with the multilateral development partners,” he said.

CoA Director Jocelyn R. Ramos confirmed at the hearing that the health department had requested for a special audit.

Ms. Vergeire said manufacturers Pfizer and AstraZeneca have given consent on limited disclosure. Chinese firm Sinovac declined. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan