Makabayan wants House to probe DepEd’s ‘pricey’ laptops
MANILA, Philippines — The Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives is seeking an investigation in aid of legislation into the purchase of overpriced laptops with outdated processors for teachers holding distance classes.
House Resolution No. 189 — authored by Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel, and Alliance of Concerned Teachers Rep. France Castro — wants the House Committee on Good Governance to lead the investigation,
It was the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) that bought the laptops for the Department of Education (DepEd) in 2021.
The Commission on Audit (COA) flagged the purchase as each unit was worth P58,300 despite having an outdated processor — an Intel Celeron chip that can be found on laptops with a price range of P20,000 to P25,000.
The DepEd under the administration of then-President Rodrigo Duterte supposedly agreed to PS-DBM’s price despite only seeking a price of 35,046.50 per laptop in its Agency Procurement Request (APR).
“Not only did the government waste the people’s money for purchasing expensive yet outdated laptops it also deprived thousands of teachers of gadgets that could have helped them implement distance learning,” the lawmakers said in the resolution.
“From 68,500, the number of intended beneficiaries was reduced to 39,583 public school teachers. Moreover, the 39,583 teachers suffered from the worse performance of the laptops in performing their tasks,” they added.
After the COA report came out, INQUIRER.net did a quick scan of online stores of well-known computer shops. It was discovered that an excellent entry-level laptop with a respectable Intel I5 10th generation processor, like that of the US brand Dell, was priced at only P35,990.
Intel’s I5 series generally have faster graphics processing unit (GPU) clocking speeds compared to Intel Celeron processors.
Meanwhile, an entry-level gaming laptop has almost the same price as that bought by the PS-DBM. For example, Taiwan-based Asus’ TUF Dash F15 — equipped with a 6-gigabyte graphics card, an 8-gigabyte random access memory, and an 11th generation Intel I5 processor — goes for P59,995.
“It is the primordial duty of the members of the House of Representatives to uphold the interests and welfare of the Filipino people against inefficiency and corrupt practices. Especially amid the pandemic, economic crisis, and ailing educational situation, the government should ensure that the access of teachers and students to quality programs and services,” they added.
Makabayan also reminded the public that this is not the first time PS-DBM was involved in an alleged overpricing of goods procured.
They pointed out that PS-DBM also purchased for the Department of Health (DOH) overpriced personal protective equipment, such as face masks and face shields, which also became the subject of a congressional inquiry under the 18th Congress.
“In 2020, the COA also found out that DBM-PS awarded Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corporation contracts worth P8.68 billion for the purchase of overpriced PPE and testing kits,” Makabayan said.
In the course of the hearings, the lawmakers discovered that Pharmally got P8.7 billion worth of contracts out of the P42 billion DOH funds transferred to PS-DBM. This was despite Pharmally having a small paid-up capital of P625,000.
This was also flagged by COA.
In their defense, PS-DBM officials said the prices were higher during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic due to supply constraints worldwide.
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