In a 197-page report released on Thursday, Jan. 19, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee recommended that charges be filed and an investigation be conducted in relation to overpriced laptops purchased in 2021 by the procurement service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS DBM) for the Department of Education (DepEd).
On the basis of evidence presented to the committee which included findings and recommendations of the Commission on Audit (COA), the overprice was established to have reached at least P979 million in relation to the procurement of more than 39,000 laptops in 2021.
In the course of five hearings conducted in the last quarter of 2022 where representatives from the DepEd, PS-DBM, COA, concerned suppliers, and teacher groups were invited, competent evidence submitted to the Blue Ribbon panel indicate that violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Revised Penal Code have been committed and concerned DepEd and PS DBM officials should be investigated.
In addition, the committee found basis for the filing of administrative charges for grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, gross neglect of duty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service against said officials.
The procurement process for the laptops, intended to support remote learning of students during the pandemic, was conducted by the PS DBM supposedly upon the request and authority of the DepEd.
The committee, however, found that the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) executed by the DepEd authorizing and delegating the procurement task to PS DBM was antedated which rendered the procurement process questionable and highly irregular.
The committee report also contained recommendations for the abolition of the PS DBM and urged government agencies including government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), states universities and colleges (SUCs) and local governments to refrain from delegating procurement tasks and to conduct their own procurement as an exercise of their fiduciary duty of accountability for public funds appropriated for their respective offices.
Equally important, the committee report called for the amendment of Republic Act No. 9184, or the procurement law, and its implementing rules and regulations, to include more robust transparency and accountability safeguards to prevent recurrence of procurement anomalies, especially for large-scale procurement projects.
Notably, the report included a strong recommendation for the recovery of the amount of the overprice through the issuance of notice of disallowances by COA and the filing of civil complaints against the concerned officials, and the amount of the recovered proceeds to be placed in a special National Teachers Trust Fund which will be created for the benefit of the teachers to support their health and medical needs as well as the educational needs of their children through a special scholarship program.
The report is expected to be forwarded in due course to the Office of the Ombudsman, the Commission on Audit, the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Immigration, the Anti-Money Laundering Council Secretariat, among other agencies of government with the proper jurisdiction, for their appropriate action on the panel recommendations as may be warranted by the evidence.