The Senate Blue Ribbon panel found that the laptops purchased for the Department of Education in 2021 were overpriced by almost P1 billion and recommended the filing of charges against former and current officials of DepEd and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
In its 197-page report, however, the committee found no evidence linking former secretary Leonor Briones to the P2.4 billion overpriced laptop scandal.
It recommended abolishing the Procurement Service of the DBM, which purchased the laptops on behalf of the DepEd.
The report recommended the filing of administrative and criminal charges against the following:
• Former DepEd undersecretary Alain del Pascua, Undersecretary Analyn Sevilla, former assistant secretary Salvador Malana III, director Abram Abanil, former PS-DBM OIC director Lloyd Christopher Lao, former PS-DBM acting director Jasonmer Uayan, BAC chairman Ulysses Mora, and other members of SBAC 1 and SBAC TWG secretariat and staff, for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act; and
• Sevilla and former executive assistant Alec Ladanga for falsifying public documents.
In a media briefing, panel chairman Senator FrancisTolentino said the panel found no legal liability on the part of Briones due to a lack of evidence.
“In other words, she (Briones) was merely used,” Tolentino said.
The Blue Ribbon Committee ruled that the “contract for the supply and delivery of laptop computers for public school teachers… was overpriced by at least P979 million.”
Because of this, it said there is sufficient basis to believe that there was a conspiracy to facilitate or generate an overprice which indicates manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable neglect on the part of senior officials and staff of the DepEd and PS-DBM.
While they may seemingly act separately, the BRC said, concerted acts were evident to create an opportunity for favored bidders to submit bloated and excessive bids.
The outsourcing of procurement tasks to PS-DBM contravenes Section 7.3.3 of the 2016 revised IRR of RA 9184 as DepEd is capable of procuring its own equipment.
The panel took note of the findings and recommendations of the Commission on Audit (COA), which said the overprice reached at least P979 million in the procurement of more than 39,000 laptops in 2021.
In addition to the criminal charges, 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.
It also emphasized that 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. However, the committee found that the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) executed by the DepEd authorizing and delegating the procurement task to PS-DBM dated Feb. 16, 2021 was antedated as it was only signed on May 28, 2021. This made the procurement activities irregular and questionable, the panel said.
The committee also said raising the unit price of the approved budget for the contract from P35,036.50 to P58,300 caused a reduction in the quantity of laptops procured, which was highly irregular.
The special bids and awards committee caused grave and undue injury to students and public school teachers, the panel said.
The Blue Ribbon Committee urged government departments, agencies and offices 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. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
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 similar anomalies in large-scale procurement deals.
The committee report included a strong recommendation for the recovery of the amount of the overprice through the issuance of notices of disallowance by COA.
The amount of the recovered proceeds, the committee report said should 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 will be sent to the Office of the Ombudsman, COA, 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.
The spokesman for the DepEd, Michael Poa, said the department “appreciates the investigation that was conducted by the Blue Ribbon Committee.”
“The DepEd has always said that we are committed to transparency and accountability, and that applies specifically also to the procurement process,” he said.
The DepEd will “definitely consider” the report’s findings “so that we can also strengthen our internal controls in terms of procurement,” Poa said.
Poa added that the DepEd was also waiting for the results of a fraud audit it requested from the COA in relation to the procurement project.