Lacson: Time to Devolve Procurement, Project Implementation Functions to LGUs

To prevent corruption and underutilization of the national budget, it is high time that the government devolve its procurement of supplies and implementation of projects to the local government units, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson said Wednesday.

Lacson said national agencies have shown bad procurement decisions, including the transfer of P42 billion to the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service – which in turn allowed shady firms such as Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. to bag multibillion-peso contracts despite lack of qualifications.

“Why don’t we devolve the procurement of medicines, drugs and other items? It’s about time. Time and again we have witnessed bad procurement by the DOH and other line agencies,” he said at the Senate deliberation on the P5.024-trillion budget for 2022.

Related: Ping: Panahon na Para Ibigay sa LGUs ang Procurement at Implementasyon ng Proyekto

Lacson, who champions the empowerment of LGUs as they are in the best position to determine their constituents’ needs and priorities, noted the Commission on Audit had flagged the DOH’s “deficient” procurement of near-expiry drugs worth P95 million.

“We’re now again putting in at least P30 billion under the House version of the budget bill to purchase drugs, medicines, medical and dental supplies. I’ve nothing against procurement of drugs and medicines but if we’re wasting money for the procurement of nearly expired or expiring drugs, what’s the sense of spending a lot of money?” he said.

He also noted that devolving the procurement of LGUs is better as shown in the purchase of ambulances with basic life support equipment.

While the DOH procured 841 ambulances at P2.5 million each, the LGUs managed to procure ambulances with similar specifications at P1.5 million each.

“Mas mahal ang procurement ng national, there are 841 units (The procurement by the national agency was much more expensive, and it bought 841 units),” Lacson said.

Meanwhile, Lacson said it is also time that the government unload from the national agencies the burden of involving themselves in the construction of smaller projects and just give it to the LGUs.

He noted that in deliberations of past budgets, the recommendations of the LGUs as contained in their local development plans were mostly disregarded by as much as 80 percent.

At the time, then Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado issued a circular that without formal endorsement from the Regional Development Councils, the DBM will not release funds to the agencies involved.

“Why not unburden the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Transportation and other agencies so they can focus on big-ticket projects instead of involving themselves in smaller projects?” Lacson asked.

It was disclosed during the hearing that of the 119 flagship infrastructure projects of the Duterte administration, only 14 have been completed while four more are due for completion before June 2022.

Lacson added devolving such functions would also be in line with the Supreme Court’s Mandanas-Garcia ruling granting more internal revenue allotments to the local governments. “If we don’t start now, I don’t think we can comply with the Mandanas ruling,” he said.