PS-DBM says COA didn’t seek blacklisting of laptop suppliers
The Commission on Audit (COA) only recommended that the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) investigate but not ban the suppliers of overpriced and outdated laptops that the Department of Education (DepEd) paid for in 2021.
The PS-DBM issued the statement after the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) called out the agency for its failure to blacklist the suppliers of laptops worth P2.4 billion, citing an annual audit report by the COA covering 2022.
“The Audit Observation Memorandum released by COA on April 27, 2022, on the DepEd laptop DID NOT recommend the termination and blacklisting of the supplier,” the PS-DBM said on Friday. “What COA recommended for that specific item was the creation of an Investigation Committee, which was adopted by previous [PS-DBM] management and submitted to COA, and was reflected with a ‘COMPLIED’ status in COA’s Status of Implementation under its 2022 Annual Audit Report.”
It’s with NBI now
The PS-DBM said that on top of the creation of the investigation committee, the current PS-DBM management led by Executive Director Dennis Santiago endorsed the DepEd laptop procurement to the National Bureau of Investigation for an independent probe.
“PS-DBM is fully cooperating with the NBI by complying with specific subpoenas requesting for documents, and by allowing PS-DBM staff to be interviewed on the matter,” the agency said, adding that the investigation was ongoing.
The PS-DBM said the recommendation to “immediately conduct contract termination and blacklisting proceedings” was for a different laptop procurement that involved a different supplier, not the DepEd contract.
“The presence of a Framework Agreement expiry date which is only present in common-use supplies and equipment (CSE) points this out,” it added. “The DepEd contract is a non-CSE procurement.”
Even then, the PS-DBM said it was fully cooperating with the COA and concerned government agencies “to come up with an honest, transparent, just, and fair resolution to the issue because the Filipino people deserve nothing less.”
‘Many red flags’
Reacting to the PS-DBM’s explanation, ACT said that whether the COA required blacklisting the suppliers of the outdated yet expensive laptops for public school teachers, it should have moved to immediately ban them, considering the “many red flags” raised by government auditors and senators.
Raymond Basilio, secretary general of ACT, cited the Senate blue ribbon committee report on the laptop deal in January which recommended the filing of charges against PS-DBM and DepEd officials involved in the purchase of the laptops.
“The Senate panel’s recommendations should have been a go signal for them (PS-DBM) to file the necessary legal charges, but until now there are no cases filed,” Basilio told the Inquirer.
Since the purchase of the outdated laptops had been considered “irregular,” Basilio said it should have been “incumbent” upon the PS-DBM to impose an “automatic blacklist” on the companies involved.
The companies were identified as Sunwest Construction and Development Corp., LDLA Marketing and Trading Inc. and VST ECS (Philippines) Inc.
June 2022 letter
The Inquirer checked the PS-DBM’s statement that there was no order for them to blacklist the suppliers and to only form an investigation committee against a June 29, 2022, management letter from the COA, which was used by state auditors as reference on the status of audit body’s recommendations to the procurement agency in prior years.
A management letter from the Coa outlines recommendations on what an agency needed to do.
The 121-page letter was addressed to Jasonmer Uayan, who was then identified as the officer in charge of the PS-DBM.
State auditors recommended that the PS-DBM create a committee to conduct investigation proceedings against the concerned members of the bids and awards committee, including its technical working groups, to determine possible administrative sanctions, among others.
At the same time, the COA recommended to the PS-DBM to require the investigation committee to also “(a) immediately conduct termination and blacklisting proceedings for the aforementioned projects; and (b) submit the resolution on termination of contracts or blacklisting of suppliers, if warranted, to the HoPE (head of procurement entity) for his/her final evaluation and approval.”
A part of the COA report on PS-DBM, “Status of Recommendations of Prior Years’ Audit Recommendations,” listed what PS-DBM complied with and what it did not.
It said that PS-DBM did not implement the “termination and blacklisting proceedings of suppliers” in projects cited on pages 24 to 53 of its management letter.
Among the projects cited on those pages was the P2.4 billion amount of the alleged outdated laptops, specifically on page 38.
“The interest of justice that is being protected here is not of the suppliers’, but the fair play and fair competition between and among bidders,” the COA said in the letter.
“If the rules that safeguards the ‘public element’ of a public bidding will be disregarded, the stakeholders and other prospective bidders will be deprived of the opportunity to participate in the rebidding of this project,” it added.