PS-DBM reviews technical specs; mulls law amendments for safe procurement
MANILA, Philippines —The Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) has acknowledged that it is considering revising its technical specifications and considering amendments to Republic Act No. 9184 to enhance its procurement process for government agencies.
In a roundtable discussion with INQUIRER.net and Philippine Daily Inquirer reporters, PS-DBM Executive Director Dennis Santiago was asked about the agency’s efforts to combat the common practice of purchasing the most affordable items available, which often results in government agencies being stuck with low-quality products.
But Santiago clarified that the supposed penchant for cheaper items is only a misnomer, as R.A. No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act (GPRA) allows purchasing slightly more expensive items if these adhere to the technical specifications.
He said the move would also help government procure items that are of high quality.
“Actually sir ‘yon pong idea n’yan in the law is not really least cost, it’s a misnomer na kapag tinignan niyo ‘yong qualifier to award a contract — nauna lang kasi ‘yong ‘lowest’ eh, pero it’s a responsive bid against a technical specification,” Santiago said, referring to the GPRA.
(Actually, that idea supposedly coming from the law is not really the least cost, it’s a misnomer that if you look at the qualifier to award a contract — the word “lowest” just came first, but it’s a responsive bid against a technical specification.)
“So ang nangyayari po dapat d’yan sir kaya nabanggit ko, we are reviewing our technical specifications. Bakit? Kasi sa gobyerno dapat naman […] kasi ang sama ng technical specifications, you really have to level it up kasi hindi naman bawal bumili ng magandang produkto. Under the procurement law pwede ho kayo bumili kung kailangan ho na bilhin ninyo,” he added.
(So what happens there is, as I have said, we are reviewing our technical specifications. Why? Because the government has bad technical specifications, you really have to level it up because it is not wrong to purchase good products. Under the procurement law, you can buy what you need to buy.)
The downside, however, Santiago said, is that if specifications are increased, the budget needed to purchase these items also increases.
“That’s why pinag-aaralan naman po nang maiigi ‘yong technical specifications at saka sabi natin if you increase your technical specs, you likewise increase your budget, they are conversely proportional, so kung ‘yong […] technical specifications niyo mataas, naturalmente mataas ang inyong ABC or the Approved Budget for the Contract,” he said.
(That’s why we are studying intently the technical specifications, and we are saying that if you increase your technical specs, you likewise increase your budget, they are conversely proportional, so if the technical specifications is high, it is natural that your ABC or the Approved Budget for the Contract would increase.)
“So ang sinasabi ho naman ng batas, ang sinasabi din namin, hindi ho bawal mag-award doon sa pinakamataas kung ‘yong pinakamababa hindi makapag-comply,” he added.
(So the law states, and we too are saying this, that it is not wrong to award contracts to the highest-priced bidder if the lowest priced item cannot comply with the specifications.)
Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, who was also present during the discussions, said that they are looking at introducing more amendments to the GPRA so that these suggestions would be institutionalized, as the bills currently filed in Congress do not contain the changes they prefer.
“We’re also, as of now, doing some back on checking our GPRA, mag-iintroduce po tayo ng possible amendments sa ating batas (we might introduce possible amendments to our law), we will issue as soon as we have the amendments,” she said.
“May existing bill sa Congress pero (There is an existing bill in Congress but) there are some items or provisions that we want to include there,” she added.
Over the years, there have been qualms with government-procured items not being up to par or breaking down now and then. In one part of the discussions, Santiago admitted that he used to think that government equipment would only either be “ugly” or “so ugly” — prompting the agency to seek changes to the practice of procuring items.
Santiago, however, assured that currently, there are measures to ensure that the government would only be getting items of high quality. According to the PS-DBM head, item prices are only revealed once bidders pass the legal, technical, and financial requirements.
“‘Pag tinignan niyo ho ‘yong buong proseso ng procurement, unang tinitignan ‘yong eligibility, titignan kung tama ba ‘yong supplier na pag-aawardan mo, so you have your legal, technical, and financial eligibility,” he said.
(If you look at the whole process of procurement, we initially look at eligibility, we check if the supplier who will get the contract has the legal, technical, and financial eligibility.)
“The second is you look at the technical, pasado ba siya sa technical? ‘Pag pumasa siya sa technical that’s the only time that you will look at the price […] so sana lang ma-churn out siya na it’s not really the least cost,” he added.
(The second is you look at the technical, does the product pass the technical specifications? If yes, that’s the only time that you will look at the price […] so we hope it can be churned out that it’s not really the least cost.)
Before these talks, Santiago also assured the public that the current PS-DBM is looking at cleaning its ranks, as they have started to revert to their original mandate of providing government offices common-use supplies — that is, paper, pens, and other items used by different government agencies.
This is in response to controversies surrounding PS-DBM in the past administration, where the office was accused of procuring low-quality items at higher prices.