Laptops for lawmakers defended

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 08 2011 05:44 PM | Updated as of Sep 09 2011 03:21 PM

Party-list solon defends laptops for lawmakers

MANILA, Philippines - House accounts committee chairman Florencio "Bem" Noel denied Thursday there was anything wrong in the distribution of laptop computers to congressmen.

Noel also maintained there was nothing overpriced and that everything was in order with regard to the laptops.

He said the laptops were purchased by the 14th Congress in 2009, acquired in February 2010, and distributed to the congressmen last December 2010.

Noel stressed the transaction underwent and hurdled auditing procedures.

With regard to the distribution to congressmen, Noel cited a Commission on Audit (COA) rule that allowed laptops to be donated by an agency within 3 years of its purchase, citing the high turnover for technology.

A total of 540 units of brand new HP (Hewlett Packard) Mininote 5101 laptops were distributed to all the congressmen at 2 laptops per office.

The House also acquired 25 units of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoiP) phones for the House leadership, VoiP management and 275 units of analog telephone adapter devices or VOIP phones, as well as 300 units of SMS modems and related servers and peripherals.

Noel said when he took over the chairmanship of the committee of accounts, some of the units were already distributed.

He said the project went through the bids and awards committee.

He explained that the computers are primarily needed for "e-district" project of the House to help lawmakers have a cheaper way of keeping in touch with their constituents.

Noel said he is holding on to P7.1 million of the payments for the project, until the contractor fully satisfies the House's requirements for the project --including the VoIP system.

However, he did confirm if partial payment was given by the previous House leadership.

Noel said the e-district project's total cost is P71 million, but the laptops alone cost only P20 million.

He said he was told that the netbooks' actual cost is only P37,800 per unit.

Noel said there are not enough laptops in the project to cover the increasing number of congressmen.

To cover these, Noel said they got concessions from the supplier for an additional 30 laptops and 6 more months of warranty as well as the necessary peripherals. There are 285 congressmen in the 15th Congress.

Noel made the clarification amid reports that the laptops were overpriced, and were paid for despite incomplete delivery of the purchases.