NTC called out for buying P2.1M-worth of smartphones; exec says it's 'necessary' | Inquirer News
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NTC called out for buying P2.1M-worth of smartphones; exec says it’s ‘necessary’

/ 05:50 PM October 15, 2020
NTC called out for buying P2.1M-worth of smartphones; exec says it's 'necessary'

(FILE) NTC / MAY 8, 2020 – National Telecommunications Commissions Office in Quezon City.
INQUIRER PHOTO / NINO JESUS ORBETA

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Audit (COA) has called the attention of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) over its allegedly excessive purchase of 44 high-end smartphones amounting to P2.101 million.

The smartphones, according to COA, were for the mere purpose of measuring mobile broadband speeds.

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Based on COA’s audit report of NTC for the year 2019, NTC’s Central Office (CO) procured 10 units of Samsung Galaxy S9 worth P45,480 each or P458,800 in total, and 22 units of Samsung Galaxy S10 worth P49,990 each or P1.099 million in total.

NTC’s National Capital Region (NCR) office, meanwhile, purchased five Samsung Galaxy S9s worth P44,200 each or P221,000 in total, and seven Samsung Galaxy S10s worth P46,500 each or P325,000 in total.

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COA said its evaluating teams found that only four of the 44 mobile phones bought were being used for their intended purpose.

“Review of Property Acknowledgement Receipts (PARs) showed that 24 out of the  32 units purchased by the CO were issued to 24 of its personnel, while eight (8) units remained unissued as at December 31, 2019. On the other hand, all the 12 units purchased by the NTC-NCR were issued to 12 of its personnel,” COA said in its report dated October 9.

COA also noted that NTC engineers who are supposed to use the smartphones were not dispatched regularly.

“Based on copies of Mission Orders for CY 2019, there were 13 NCR personnel (engineers) who were dispatched to conduct the said task during the year. It was observed, though, that only two of the 13 personnel were issued with Mission Orders monthly during the year, four were issued Mission Orders for only eight months, three for only seven months, two for only five months, one for only three months and one for only one month,” it said.

“It was further noted that only three out of the said 13 personnel conducting validation were issued with mobile phones, one of whom has two (2) mobile phones (Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S10) under his accountability […] The remaining 10 personnel were not issued with mobile phones; but, accordingly, they only borrow the units issued to the other personnel during the times they will conduct validation,” it added.

But NTC Deputy Commissioner Delilah Deles defended the agency’s purchase of the smartphones, saying the gadgets were necessary — not excessive — in its task to monitor the internet data speed of mobile network providers.

“We believe that all the concerns raised in the COA observation report had already been adequately addressed by the Commission,” Deles said in a statement issued Thursday, October 15.

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According to Deles, the products went through competitive public bidding and priced as such since the units were considered top of the line models. She also said that the smartphones were each equipped with an 8-gigabyte random access memory and 128-gigabyte internal storage, and thus, reasonable for its purpose.

Deles further explained that the phones were used as “engineering phones” to measure broadband speeds and other data such as jitter, latency, throughput, blocked calls, drop calls — things that could be measured by some applications doing their own network speed tests.

“We need high-powered mobile phones to measure a lot of parameters in the telecoms service. If we are to use regular phones, it would not meet the project’s technical specifications requirement,” she pointed out.

But COA, in its report, noted that NTC does not have a documented procedure to show how it was able to monitor internet speeds and come up with results using the smartphones.
 
Hence, COA said that “it could not be verified if the NTC had indeed attained its organizational outcome.”

“We recommended that the NTC CO and NCR Management submit an explanation, in relation to the main purpose of the procurement project, on the necessity of procuring several mobile phones in CY 2018 for the project […] and even more units in CY 2019 under the same project when only four mobile phones are being used for the purpose,” COA added.

However, in the same statement, Deles maintained that the smartphones were used for its intended purpose, and nothing else — as the smartphones were issued to branch directors and their technical staff assigned to monitor the coverage, speed, and reliability of internet services.

“Since the purpose of the unit is to measure the quality of experience of regular users of mobile broadband service, the unit is being used by the NTC users to conduct validation anytime and anywhere,” Deles explained.

“It will also aid them in the conduct of their study and research so they can propose or formulate new policies and regulations for improved services, according to the mandated functions of the NTC Central Office personnel,” she added.

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TAGS: audit report, COA, Commission On Audit, Deputy Commissioner Delilah Deles, Galaxy S10, Galaxy S9, mobile broadband, mobile data, National Telecommunications Commission, NTC, Philippine news updates, samsung galaxy, smartphones, speed test
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