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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

VP orders probe of pricey laptops, wants fraud audit

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Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio, in her role as Education Secretary, has ordered a probe into the 2021 procurement of alleged overpriced and outdated laptops through the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).

She also asked the Commission on Audit to do a fraud audit on the procurement for the Department of Education.

“Since most of the information is beyond us, considering that these are PS-DBM transactions, and considering that these were transactions done by the previous officials, the Vice President and Secretary Sara Duterte has already permitted us to write a letter to Atty. Jose Calida, Chairperson of COA, to ask him for a fraud audit from COA,” DepEd Undersecretary Epimaco Densing said.

“One of the most important procurement processes is market scanning. This means that when you are procuring, the agency, in this case PS-DBM, needs to ask the market how much the laptops cost given the specifications. When they returned to the Technical Working Group, they said it costs P58,000.”

“The reason why we’re asking COA for a fraud audit is (to determine) the reason why it was downgraded from 1.9 gigahertz to 1.8 gigahertz, and at the same time why the price increased, and why is it Intel Celeron (processor) because we were very specific in the specifications of the laptop,” Densing added.

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In its 2021 audit report, COA flagged DepEd for purchasing P2.4 billion worth of laptops through the PS-DBM.

“When we found out about it, we also felt angry, if it was true. Secretary Sara’s directive was for us to investigate,” Densing said.

Moving forward, Densing said DepEd would purchase materials through its own Procurement Service Team.

PS-DBM earlier turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation documents related to the procurement of the laptops and other contracts entered into by PS-DBM in previous years.

PS-DBM executive director Dennis Santiago said he also directed his office to conduct a thorough examination of COA’s findings.

“The NBI is a highly competent investigation authority to take over the matter to ensure that the probe would be fair, impartial, and independent. We do not want any room for suspicion,” Santiago said.

Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano have filed separate resolutions calling on the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to investigate.

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