MANILA (2nd UPDATE) — The Department of Education (DepEd) said Monday it has sought a fraud audit over the Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service's (PS-DBM) purchase of allegedly overpriced and outdated laptops for public school teachers.
The DepEd has written to the Commission on Audit (COA), asking for a fraud audit to find out if there were any irregularities in the procurement of the laptops, which were intended to help teachers for distance learning at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If proven that there was any fraud or irregularity in the procurement, cases may filed against those involved, DepEd Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III said.
"While we are not declaring that there is a fraudulent transaction at that time, we're also not saying that there is none," Densing said.
"Direktiba po sa amin ni Secretary, ni [Vice President] Sara [Duterte], paimbestigahan niyo na 'yan para makita kung mayroon bang kalokohan o wala," he added.
(Secretary, Vice President Sara's directive to us is to investigate the matter to see if there was any foolishness in the transaction.)
The DepEd will be more cautious in its future procurements, said Densing.
In its 2021 audit report on the DepEd, the COA flagged the purchase of P2.4 billion worth of laptops, which were deemed overpriced and "too slow" because of "outdated" processors.
The DepEd initially gave an estimate cost of P35,046 per laptop but later accepted the PS-DBM's pricing at P58,300, according to the COA report.
The higher price resulted in fewer beneficiaries, from 68,500 down to 39,583 teachers.
Two of the 3 companies contracted by PS-DBM have maintained that they followed the DepEd's technical specifications for the laptops.
"As qualified bidders, we made an offer and won the comprehensive and competitive bidding fair and square," said Sunwest Construction and Development Corp. and LDLA Marketing and Trading Inc.
"The public should also note that the Dell Latitude 3420 laptops delivered to the government were custom-built direct from the factory and according to the requirements needed by DepEd and therefore cannot be easily equated to a regular off-the-shelf consumer unit," they added.
Both companies said it was "inaccurate and unfair" to say that the P58,300 pricing was only for each laptop unit.
"The laptop sets are priced competitively based on the required specifications taking into account the cost of the unit, peripherals, software, commercial grade durability, comprehensive 36-months warranty and technical support anywhere in the Philippines, including nationwide delivery and other add-ons," the companies said.
"This also includes customization of the items [or] units as required by DepEd," they said.
The DepEd declined to comment on the companies' statement, saying the transaction was between the firms and PS-DBM.
The education agency has said it would replace the laptops if proven that they are indeed slow.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III last week asked the chamber to look into the issue. Sen. Risa Hontiveros said she would also file a resolution seeking the same probe.
“It’s very, very good case for the Blue Ribbon committee... Kung merong anomalya, we can hold someone accountable para makakita sa tao na hindi lulusot. Kung hindi natin titingnan at kung hindi natin ihi-hearing to, magkakalakas ng loob ang iba,” Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said on Monday.
(If there is an anomaly, we can hold someone accountable so that people will see that we won't allow this and if there will be no hearings on this, it will embolden others.)
— With reports from Joyce Balancio and Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News