A board member claimed Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth) president Ricardo Morales and other high-ranking officials repeatedly approved alleged overpriced IT equipment, which cost millions of pesos.
According to Alejandro Cabading, a certified public accountant and a part of Philhealth’s board of directors, the agency’s initial information and technology (IT) budget for 2020 were P2.1 billion. However, the proposal was rejected after the review showed multiple items were either overpriced or were redundant.
“There were numbers in the IT budget and financial reports that do not add up,” Cabading said during a Senate investigation.
He said the budget proposal was unusual because the price of several items was 400 times higher than the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has approved.
Among the allegedly overpriced items in the IT budget of PhilHealth are as follows:
- P21 million for Adobe Master Collection software (DICT approved cost: P168,000)
- P40 million for Application servers and licenses (DICT approved cost: P25 million)
- P5 million for Structured cabling (DICT approved cost: P500,000)
- P42 million for Identity Management software (DICT approved cost: P20 million)
- P21 million for office productivity software (DICT approved cost: P5 million
- P25 million for application servers and virtualization licenses (DICT approved cost: P14.8 million)
The proposal also items with questionable prices, such as two sets of laptops with one costing P4.11 million, while another worth P115.32 million.
Cabading added another item priced at P98.07 million was only labeled as “three projects.”
“I tried to find a solution by raising this with management, but the most frustrating part is it seems that management seems to be tolerating this act,” he said.
The accountant said he only authorized to release P25 million for PhilHealth’s IT needs. Morales, however, allegedly approved a separate P302 million “supplemental budget” for IT-related procurement.
Cabading added Morales again approved P750 million for IT expenses months later.
“There were items in the budget not approved by DICT,” he said.
Morales, meanwhile, said he believes there were “major discrepancies” but insisted there were no “irregularity” in the PhilHealth’s IT budget.
“I think it was a matter of explaining to the board… because information technology is a very complicated system,” he said, noting that the documents Cabading presented were just “budget proposals and not contracts.”