VP Duterte orders probe into ‘pricey, outdated’ laptops, asks COA for ‘fraud audit’
MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Sara Duterte has ordered an investigation into the purchase of “pricey and outdated” laptops for teachers in 2021 by the Department of Education (DepEd) through the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).
Duterte, who concurrently serves as DepEd Secretary, also allowed her agency to write the Commission on Audit (COA) on Monday to request a “fraud audit” on the controversial procurement.
“Since most information is beyond us [DepEd], considering that these are PS-DBM transactions, and considering that these were transactions done by previous officials, the Vice President and Secretary Sara Duterte have already permitted us to write a letter to Atty. Jose Calida, chairperson of COA, to ask him for a fraud audit from COA,” DepEd Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III said in a press briefing.
The COA in a report flagged DepEd’s purchase of laptops for teachers last year, amounting to P2.4 billion. The laptop procurement was in line with the implementation of distance learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the COA., the portable computers were “pricey for an entry-level type laptop.” This, it noted, “adversely decreased the number of intended beneficiaries from 68,500 to 39,583 public school teachers.”
Densing said DepEd tapped the PS-DBM to purchase the laptops to meet the deadline of the procurement period under the Bayanihan 2 law.
He said the PS-DBM needs to answer the concerns, saying DepEd is also baffled by the transactions.
“Isa sa pinaka-importanteng proseso ng pag-procure ay ‘yung tinatawag nating market scanning. Ang 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.
(One of the most important steps in procurement is market scanning. When an agency procures something, in this case, the PS-DBM, they must ask around the market how much the laptop is with the said specifications. According to the technical working group, the said laptops were 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, and why is it IntelCeleron because we were very specific in the specifications of the laptop,” he added.
(We’re asking COA for a fraud audit because it was downgraded from 1.9 gigahertz to 1.8 gigahertz. At the same time, the price also increased, and why is it IntelCeleron because we were very specific in the specifications of the laptop.)
Densing clarified DepEd is not in its capacity to declare any anomalies with the transaction, saying the department doesn’t want to arrive at any conclusions yet.
“While we are not declaring that there is a fraudulent transaction that happened at the time, we are also not saying that there is none,” he said.
“Kaming nandito ngayon, nung nalaman namin ‘yan, nakakaramdam din kami ng galit kung sakaling totoo ‘yan at ayaw namin itong mangyari. Kaya direktiba sa amin ni Secretary Sara na paimbestigahan niyo na ‘yan para makita kung mayroong ibang kalokohan o wala,” Densing added.
(For those of us here, when we found out about that issue, we were also angered if ever that’s true, and we don’t want that to happen. That’s why the directive to us by Secretary Sara is to investigate it.)
The PS-DBM said it turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) documents related to procuring the DepEd laptops.
Several lawmakers have also filed resolutions seeking to launch a congressional inquiry on the issue.
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