The Department of Justice has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate former Health secretary Janette Garin and other officials of the Department of Health for possible graft and corruption, in connection with the alleged irregularities in the implementation of the P8-billion program to build 5,700 barangay health stations in public schools nationwide.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the NBI has the authority to summon Garin and former or incumbent DoH officials for its fact-finding investigation to find out their possible involvement and criminal liabilities in the anomalous multi-billion-peso health stations project.
“The NBI may invite current or former DoH officials, including secretary Garin to shed light on the issues,” Guevarra said.
“I will leave it to the NBI if they will find it necessary to summon secretary Garin and other officials,” he said.
The DoJ chief said he has already directed the NBI to commence its own fact-finding inquiry into the controversy, which is also being investigated by the Senate.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III exposed the alleged barangay health stations anomaly, saying the project sites were “not validated” by implementing agencies and that there were “problems from the level of planning, procurement and actual project implementation.”
Duque said the contractor of the project, J. Bros. Construction, sent a letter of termination of contract for Phase 1 of the project and billed the DoH P2.9 billion for 429 units last March.
The DoH chief described the anomaly as “wide and deep,” adding that middle- to high-level officials were involved.
Duque said he requested the Commission on Audit to conduct a “fraud audit” of the project and also asked the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the transaction.
In Senate hearing last week, Duque slammed the lack of planning for the project that involved the construction of 5,700 school-based barangay health units by the DoH with the Department of Education and Department of the Interior and Local Government.
The DoH chief said more time should have been allotted for the planning of the 5,700 health units in barangays to ensure the program’s smooth implementation.
Duque said only 218 barangay health stations have been built with complete documents.
Garin requested funding for the construction of the health units in 2015, or less than a year before the Aquino administration ended its term.
Garin is already facing string of charges before the DoJ over the Dengvaxia anti-dengue vaccine program.
In the Senate, Senator JV Ejercito said the special allotment release orders for the Dengvaxia vaccine and the Barangay Health Stations were approved on the same day, Dec. 29, 2015, or a few weeks before the campaign period for the May 2016 elections.
“It’s too much of a coincidence because it’s the same date,” said Ejercito, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, which has been conducting a hearing on the Dengvaxia and health center programs.
Ejercito said his panel would recommend the filing of technical malversation charges against Garin and other health officials, as well as former Budget secretary Florencio Abad.
Abad will be invited in the next hearing.
Duque and former secretary Jean Paulyn Ubial told the committee that there seemed to be haste in the approval of the two projects.
Ubial said she noticed the lack of planning in the project when she became Health secretary.
Health Undersecretary Roger Tong-An confirmed that the SARO for the BHS was issued on Dec. 29, 2015, about six months before the end of President Benigno Aquino III’s term of office.
Senators also took note that the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund was often used as a source of funds not provided by Congress.