COA flags DepEd over P2.4B purchase of pricey laptops with old processors | Inquirer News

COA flags DepEd over P2.4B purchase of pricey laptops with old processors

/ 05:23 PM August 04, 2022
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MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged the Department of Education’s (DepEd) purchase of pricey laptops with low-end processors in 2021, transacted through the controversial Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).

In auditing DepEd’s financial transactions in 2021, COA noted that P2.4 billion was approved for purchasing laptops for online teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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COA said “the economy and efficiency in the procurement of laptop computers” were not guaranteed after DepEd settled with PS-DBM’s price and specification recommendations, which rose from P35,046.50 on its Agency Procurement Request (APR) to P58,300 on its Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC).

The laptops also have Intel Celeron processors, which are usually found in entry-level personal computers.

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“The adjustments made thereof resulted in pricey computer laptops with low-end processors which adversely decreased the number of intended beneficiaries from 68,500 to 39,583 public school teachers,” COA said in the audit report of DepEd, which was under former secretary Leonor Briones when the transaction was made.

COA’s auditing team also said they could not ascertain the basis of PS-DBM for adopting a higher price per unit for the entry-level laptops.

“Per available documents, the Audit Team could not ascertain the DBM-PS’s basis for adopting the unit price of P58,300.00 in its recommended ABC,” COA added.

“Apparently, the supposed number of laptops to be procured of 68,500 units was significantly reduced to 39,583 units which were mainly due to the huge increase of estimated cost from P35,046.50, based on DepEd’s submitted and approved APR, to P58,300.00 anchored on the DBM-PS’s recommendation, which was duly accepted by the DepEd,” it explained.

COA noted that an estimated 28,917 teachers “were deprived of the possible benefits from the supposed provision of these laptops.”

A quick scan of the online store of well-known computer shops in the country showed that an excellent entry-level laptop with a respectable Intel I5 10th generation processor, like United States brand Dell, would sell for P35,990.

Most technology websites say that Intel Celeron processors, which are generally less expensive than Intel’s I5, have slower graphics processing unit (GPU) clocking speeds.

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Meanwhile, an entry-level gaming laptop like Taiwan-based Asus’ TUF Dash F15 equipped with a six-gigabyte graphics card, an eight-gigabyte random access memory, and an 11th generation Intel I5 processor goes for P59,995 — almost the same price as what the PS-DBM procured.

An older model of the said Asus laptop with a slightly smaller graphics card is still for sale at P56,995 — cheaper than the PS-DBM-approved entry-level laptop.

COA said that there were also other indications that purchasing the entry-level laptops was not advantageous to DepEd. For example, the Commission mentioned that in May 2021, PS-DBM bidding for a mid-range laptop with a unit price of P45,431.20 — cheaper and way more capable than what the same agency procured for DepEd.

COA asked DepEd to explain why the said price was accepted by the agency even if it showed glaring disadvantages to the project.

“We recommended that Management explain why the amount of P58,300.00 price per unit was accepted by DepEd as part of DBM-PS’s recommended ABC despite the fact that the estimated price based on DepEd’s approved APP and APR are P35,046.50 only,” COA said.

The DepEd management supposedly failed to answer the issues, but DepEd’s current administration recently vowed to answer the queries from COA.

As for PS-DBM, this is not the first time COA has called the attention of the agency, whose primary mandate is to buy common-use supplies to give the government an advantage in terms of lower costs due to bulk orders.

It could be remembered that PS-DBM was also flagged for handling the Department of Health (DOH) procurement of personal protective equipment like face masks and face shields, which allegedly led to huge overpricing.

The issue developed into a full Congressional investigation, dragging the company Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. into discussions.

During the hearings, it was revealed that out of the P42 billion funds transferred by DOH to PS-DBM, P8.7 billion worth of granted contracts were given to Pharmally despite having a small paid-up capital of P625,000.

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TAGS: Commission On Audit, Department of Education, laptops, Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management
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