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DBM submits documents on laptop purchase

The Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) documents related to the procurement of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) laptops, and other contracts entered into by PS-DBM in previous years
PS-DBM executive director Dennis S. Santiago said the said contracts were the subject of a Commission on Audit (COA) report which earlier flagged the PS-DBM.

Santiago earlier directed his office to conduct a thorough examination of COA’s findings emphasizing that the mandate of the PS-DBM is to ensure a transparent and competitive procurement process.

“The NBI is a highly competent investigative authority to take over the matter to ensure that the probe would be fair, impartial and independent. We do not want any room for suspicion,” Santiago said.

Santiago added that the move to request the NBI to step in was made after the examination showed alleged discrepancies in the initial findings, which is similar to COA’s observations.

Santiago also said he “understands” why some parties are calling for the abolition of the PS-DBM.

“We fully understand the sentiment of some groups and even by our own beloved legislators. We know where they are coming from as we share their sentiment on zero tolerance against irregularities in government transactions,” Santiago said.

Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano meanwhile joined Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III in urging for a Senate probe into the procurement of allegedly overpriced entry level laptops.

Gatchalian also described as a great disservice to teachers the purchase of outdated and overpriced laptops, which deprived them of much-needed equipment for teaching amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gatchalian and Cayetano filed separate resolutions which called on the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to conduct an investigation.

Last year, Gatchalian called for the abolition of the PS-DBM. He noted that agencies had a bad habit of transferring funds to the PS-DBM so they would not be marked for low utilization or for not using their budget.

In filing proposed Senate Resolution No. 134, Cayetano cited an urgent need for the Senate to conduct an inquiry in on the issue” and why it had taken so long “given the urgency of Bayanihan II for the procurement to take place.”

Cayetano was referring to a July 29, 2022 report by the Commission on Audit (COA) which noted that teachers’ laptops purchased through the DBM-PS were pricey relative to their unit specifications.

The laptops were procured as part of a P4-billion allocation provided for “the implementation of Digital Education, Information Technology (IT) and Digital Infrastructures and Alternative Learning Modalities…” in the Bayanihan to Recover As One or Bayanihan II Act.

However, there was a nine-month delay in the procurement of the laptops, with the P2.4-billion contract for the purchase of the equipment being awarded only on June 30, 2021.

The distribution of the laptops to teachers started in late August 2021, according to DepEd at the time.