P3M in Cebu pork barrel used for ghost purchases

Cebu hospital under investigation By Jhunnex Napallacan
Visayas Bureau
Last updated 01:39am (Mla time) 08/10/2007

CEBU CITY–The Commission on Audit found that the P3 million medical aid fund from the pork barrel of Cebu City Rep. Antonio Cuenco at the government-run Don Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (DVMMC) has been misused.


The COA auditor assigned at the hospital reported that Cuenco’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, worth P3,290,083.29, went instead to ghost purchases of medicines.


Another COA report also stated that another P5,156,760.00 in hospital funds were used to purchase assorted medicines without bidding and from a single source, the Pharmaceutica Filipina de Visayas.


The irregularities were just among several questionable transactions at the hospital investigated by the COA.


The hospital’s top management is now under investigation on orders of Health Secretary Francisco Duque after COA reported that around P100 million was lost to graft because of several transactions that did not undergo public bidding and due to unnecessary purchases of hospital equipment.


Cuenco yesterday confirmed the COA finding, saying it was him who asked COA to conduct an audit after he learned of the alleged irregular use of his PDAF.


Cuenco revealed that a COA official in fact called him last week to inform him about the investigation so his side would be aired before the matter is endorsed to the Visayas Ombudsman.


The COA report said that the pork barrel fund was meant to buy antirabies vaccines from the Dell Pharmacy. Patients who came from the city’s south district, which is represented by Cuenco, could avail themselves of the medicines by presenting the prescriptions and referral slips issued by the attending doctors of DVSMMC.


However, the pharmacy claimed payment from the hospital using forged prescriptions and referral slips given to non-existent patients, the report said.


The signatures of the doctors were forged so around 106 fictitious patients were given prescriptions of antirabies vaccines totaling P2,986,037.20.


Cuenco blamed one of his former staffer for what he described as a sabotage of his medical program.


He said the staff member, identified as James Yrastorza, who was then assigned to the hospital to handle the needs of the patients, was fired in 2005 after another of his staff member reported to him the irregularity.

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