Budget chief: Give PS-DBM a chance | Inquirer News

Budget chief: Give PS-DBM a chance

Amenah Pangandaman

Amenah Pangandaman—Department of Budget and Management facebook

Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman on Friday appealed to Congress to give the controversial Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) a chance instead of abolishing the office as proposed by some lawmakers.

“I will defer to the wisdom of Congress if they wish to really abolish PS-DBM,” Pangandaman told the House committee on appropriations at the start of deliberations on the proposed P5.268-trillion national budget for 2023.


But Pangandaman pointed out that during her previous stint at the DBM as undersecretary from 2017 to 2019, “one of the benefits of [having] PS-DBM is the savings incurred during that time, worth P18 billion.”

The office was formed in 1978, during the first Marcos administration, to serve as the centralized procurement body for items that are of common use in the entire government bureaucracy, instead of making individual departments purchase these materials separately.


The intention was to save money. Among the common-use goods on the basic PS-DBM menu are ballpens, papers, folders, paper clips, staplers and other office supplies.

However, state auditors have found major purchases made during the Duterte administration to be allegedly overpriced, such as the laptops bought for public school teachers under the Department of Education (DepEd), as well as supplies for the pandemic response under the Department of Health (DOH).

READ: Exposed at Senate probe: DepEd-PS-DBM’s ‘hastily drafted’ laptop contract studded with errors

Bid for ‘old glory’

For Pangandaman, “if we give a chance to PS-DBM, and if we clean the process and the system of procurement in PS-DBM, maybe we can go back to its old glory.”

Upon her appointment to the top budget department post by President Marcos in July, Pangandaman then said she intended to evaluate and streamline the PS-DBM “to ensure proper oversight and stricter controls to safeguard the integrity of the procurement process.”

This was despite findings made during the Senate blue ribbon committee investigation last year, when it looked into the hefty pandemic supply contracts awarded to the undercapitalized company Pharmally, that the budget secretary exercised limited oversight and had no direct control over the PS-DBM.

Pangandaman said the Marcos administration had appointed “someone who is very respectable” as the new executive director of the PS-DBM, referring to lawyer Dennis Santiago. The former chief, Lloyd Christopher Lao, had been implicated in what the Senate concluded to be irregular purchases of pandemic supplies made through deals that benefited a few favored suppliers.


“We already have programs on how to fix PS-DBM. If you may give us a chance to at least clean PS-DBM, we will be highly happy with that,” Pangandaman said, without elaborating.

Win suspects ‘syndicate’

In Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian’s view, a syndicate within the PS-DBM has been taking advantage of “loopholes” in its procedures, resulting in the loss of billions of pesos to corruption.

Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on basic education, said the Senate’s initial findings on these loopholes would bolster calls for the abolition of the office.

“Looking at the setup in PS-DBM, I clearly believe that there’s something wrong with their procedures and people are taking advantage of that. And I clearly believe that probably there’s a syndicate operating inside PS-DBM, taking advantage of the loopholes,” he said.

Senators on Thursday quizzed PS-DBM and DepEd officials over the P2.4 billion worth of allegedly overpriced and outdated laptops, particularly on their decision to proceed with the purchase of the gadgets at P58,000 each even though the approved budget was only P32,000 per unit.

The increase in the purchase price, which was accepted by the DepEd, resulted in fewer teachers getting laptops. Gatchalian said as many as 30,000 teachers did not receive any for their distance learning classes.


The senator also rejected the explanation given by PS-DBM and DepEd officials after they admitted to committing “lapses” in deciding on the purchase, which had also been questioned by the Commission on Audit in its 2021 report on the education department.

“I don’t buy the [claim that it was due to an] honest mistake, because this is a P2.4-billion deal and there are so many inconsistencies: Senator Francis [Tolentino] saw a cut-and-paste contract; Senator [Koko] Pimentel saw a cut-and-paste price analysis,” he added.

Senators also found out that, aside from failing to undergo the process for a price analysis, the PS-DBM gave a single person “a lot of discretion” regarding the transactions.

‘What’s the point?’

Gatchalian noted, for example, that a PS-DBM employee sent out requests for quotations for Windows-based laptops even to suppliers known to be exclusive retailers of Apple products.

“This type of modus [operandi] is actually eliminating competition… so that [the choices] will narrow down to a few suppliers and the price will be jacked up. So from P32,000 [per unit] requested by DepEd, it went up to P58,000 because they narrowed down [the choices] to the most expensive suppliers,” he said.

“It’s like requesting Toyota parts but you asked Mitsubishi suppliers, which is unusual. For me, this is actually eliminating competition,’’ he added.

Blunders committed by the PS-DBM in these purchases belie the argument that the agency can be considered an expert in big-ticket procurements, Gatchalian said.

“PS-DBM is given the funds because is its presumed to be more meticulous, more efficient… [B]ut if you’re seeing so many ‘honest’ mistakes, so many wrong documentations, you’re not any better than the other departments. So what’s the point?” he said.

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