Ex-Health chief Garin slammed for poor planning in BHS project

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Former Health Chief Janette Garin.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 5) — Former Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Janette Garin stressed that there were no irregularities in the implementation of the Barangay Health Stations (BHS) project, which cost ₱8.1 billion.

In a Senate probe by the health committee on Wednesday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and his predecessor Paulyn Ubial lamented the "poor planning" of Garin as head of the development, after the Commission on Audit discovered that a number of schools did not have functioning health units.

Duque added that an executive committee he had formed also found some irregularities after investigating the project.

"I really think it just points to one thing: it's poor planning right from the very start," said the Health Secretary. "We're trying to fix all the mess because the planning was just, I think, was very deficient. It was really very defective to begin with."

During the hearing, it was said that only 218 Barangay Health Stations were constructed since the J.Bros Construction Corporation started handling the job in 2016.

However, the contractor noted that the project already had 429 health stations up, and that the department had yet to pay ₱2.9 billion for the construction.

Julieanne Jorge, Board of Directors member of the J.Bros Construction Corporation, pointed at the DOH for their failure to complete the designated units for the government project.

"When we go to the area, we don't know that they didn't know that the school didn't know about the project," said Jorge. "Sometimes the sites are not even available. There's no space in the school."

Garin denied the alleged anomalies, saying that the DOH fairly allocated the funds it got from the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF) savings. The MPBF was later on revealed to be the same source for the Dengvaxia budget.

Garin added that she had nothing to do with the shortcomings of the contractor, as the project extended beyond her term and was now under the Duterte administration.

"Whatever what happened during the implementation after my time, hindi ko alam kung anong nangyari," Garin told reporters.

The former Health chief likewise noted that she had no monetary gain during the execution of the project.

Senate Health Committee Chair JV Ejercito meanwhile alluded the project's failure due to the agency's "sloppy execution," and also questioned the timing of the project's fund release.

"It's really poor execution. Poor planning na ilang bilyon ang pondong gustong ilagay dito gayong 'di ka pa sigurado dahil wala pa 'yung lupa," said the Senator. "It's [the] same date, December 29 of 2015. So either coincidence ito pero too much of a coincidence kasi sabay na sabay so bago ho ito mag-eleksyon."

The BHS project was started back in the Aquino administration, with the goal of putting up 5,700 nationwide barangay health units that would provide premium health care for respective citizens.