VP Sara orders probe on ‘outdated, pricey’ laptops purchase, asks for COA fraud audit

Vice President and Department of Education Secretary Sara Duterte has ordered an investigation into the 2021 procurement of alleged overpriced and outdated laptops through the Department of Budget and Management Procurement Service (PS-DBM), the DepEd said on Monday.advertisement

At a press conference, DepEd Undersecretary Epimaco Densing said that the department had, on Monday-August 15, submitted a fraud audit request to the Commission on Audit on the laptop issue.

“Since most of the information is beyond us, considering that these are PS-DBM transactions, and considering that these were transactions done by the previous officials, the Vice president and Secretary Sara Duterte has already permitted us to write a letter to Atty. Jose Calida, Chairperson of COA, to ask him for a fraud audit from COA,” he said.

In its 2021 audit report, COA flagged DepEd for purchasing P2.4 billion worth of laptops through the PS-DBM even as there were allegedly cheaper and better options in the market.

“Isa sa pinaka-importanteng proseso ng pag-procure ay ‘yung tinatawag nating market scanning. Ibig sabihin nito, kapag nagpo-procure ka, bago bumili, kailangan ang ahensya, in this case, PS-DBM, kailangan nagtatanong sa merkado kung magkano ba itong laptop na ito na ganito ang specification. Nung bumalik sila sa Technical Working Group, inilabas itong presyo na P58,000,” Densing said.

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(One of the most important procurement processes is market scanning. This means that when you are procuring, the agency, in this case PS-DBM, needed to ask the market how much the laptops cost given the specifications. When they returned to the Technical Working Group, they said it costs P58,000.)

“The reason why we’re asking COA for a fraud audit is the reason why it was downgraded from 1.9 gigahertz to 1.8 gigahertz, and at the same time tumaas din ‘yung presyo [why the price increased], and why is it IntelCeleron because we were very specific in the specifications of the laptop,” he added.

He stressed that the DepEd could not determine if there was an anomaly in the laptops purchase until the PS-DBM answers the allegations.

“Nung nalaman namin ‘yan, nakakaramdam din kami ng galit kung sakaling totoo ‘yan at ayaw namin itong mangyari. Kaya ang direktiba sa’min ni Secretary Sara na paimbestigahan niyo na ‘yan para makita kung may iba pang kalokohan o wala,” Densing said.

(When we found out about it, we also felt angry, if it was true. We don’t want it to happen. Secretary Sara’s directive was for us to investigate, to see if there are any other issues or not.)

In light of the controversy, Densing said that the DepEd would purchase materials through its own Procurement Service Team from now on.

DepEd spokesperson Atty. Michael Poa last Wednesday said that they had two approaches to addressing the issue: to internally evaluate the laptops and make a “quick fix” so they could be used immediately; or to apply legal remedies for it.

Should the laptops prove to be not up to par with DepEd’s standards, Poa said that they would consider invoking the warranty provision in the contract with the laptop supplier.

PS-DBM earlier said it had sought the National Bureau of Investigation’s (NBI) assistance in looking into the acquisition of laptops for DepEd.

Meanwhile, several lawmakers had filed resolutions seeking an investigation into the laptop issue.

For their part, DepEd said that it welcomed the congressional probe.

PS-DBM to cooperate

In response to the investigation being sought by Duterte, PS-DBM Executive Director Dennis Santiago said that they would “fully cooperate” with concerned authorities to find out if there were irregularities in the procurement of the laptops.

“We will fully cooperate with investigating authorities to address the audit findings of COA, and to determine whether or not there were irregularities and non-compliance with existing laws,” Santiago told GMA News Online.

“We do not want to leave any room for suspicion. Hence, we will fully support the conduct of a fair, impartial and independent investigation,” he added.

Santiago said that Duterte’s call “supports and strengthens” PS-DBM’s move to turn over to the NBI all relevant documents related to contracts they entered into the previous years which were the subject of COA findings. — DVM, GMA NewsTags: newsdeped laptop purchaseps-dbmDepartment of EducationSara Duterte Carpio

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