MANILA, Philippines — Makabayan bloc House representatives have again started calling for the abolition of the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) on learning about its purchase of overpriced and outdated laptops for teachers.
House Bill No. 3270, which was filed on Monday, seeks to to return to government agencies the role of purchasing their own common-use supplies.
The Makabayan legislators who filed the bill were Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel, Alliance of Concerned Teachers Rep. France Castro, and Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas.
“The directive of the 1987 Constitution to maintain honesty, integrity, and transparency in public service and the Republic Act 9184 or the ‘Government Procurement Act’ which mandates all procurement entities to establish a single Bids and Awards Committee, have made the PS-DBM archaic and irrelevant,” the lawmakers said in the explanatory note of the bill.
“Worse, it became a breeding ground for graft, corruption, inefficiency, and negligence of the duties of other government agencies. Thus, this bill seeks to abolish the Procurement Service – Department of Budget and Management,” they added.
The bill also proposes to direct the Commission on Audit (COA) to do a special audit of the PS-DBM. The results of the audit would then be submitted to the blue ribbon committees of the House and the Senate within 30 days after its completion.
Administrative and criminal cases could also be recommended for filing at the Office of the Ombudsman against those who might be found to have been involved in any irregularities.
After figuring in the Pharmally congressional hearing involving overpriced, the PS-DBM found itself in the hot seat again for procuring overprice laptops for the Department of Education for use of teachers.
According to the 2021 COA audit report, the PS-DBM bought outdated laptops for P58,300 each for the DepEd, which was then headed by Leonor Briones.
The contract was priced at P2.4 billion, and the laptops were intended for the use of teachers conducting online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COA audit team found out that the laptops acquired each contained an Intel Celeron processor — which has a way slower processing speed than the Intel I3 or I5 series processors.
A quick scan done by INQUIRER.net on online gadget shops in the country showed that laptops with Intel Celeron chips cost around P20,000 to P25,000. On the other hand, a laptop with a respectable Intel I5 10th generation processor would sell for P35,990.
More complicated gaming laptops with higher capabilities, like Taiwan-based Asus’ TUF Dash F15 which is equipped with an 11th generation Intel I5 processor, would go for P59,995 — not too far from PS-DBM’s price of P58,300.
The COA pointed out that the laptops were slow, thus affecting the performance of teachers.
On top of that, an estimated 28,917 teachers “were deprived of the possible benefits from the supposed provision of these laptops” because PS-DBM purchased them at a higher price, the audit report said.
DepEd agreed to the price of the laptops, even though it specified in its Agency Procurement Request (APR) that each laptop should only cost P35,046.50.
On Monday, the Makabayan bloc filed a resolution seeking an investigation of the issue of overpriced laptops.
In 2021, PS-DBM was also at the center of congressional hearings procuring for the Department of Health allegedly overpriced personal protective equipment, such as face masks and face shields, through Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.
The controversy led several lawmakers to push for the abolition of the PS-DBM, but proposals did not push through due to time constraints.