Senate Minority Leader Aquilino ‘Koko” Pimentel III is seeking an investigation into the government purchase of P2.4 billion worth of laptops which the Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged as substandard and overpriced.
Meanwhile, the supplier of the 39,583 laptops distributed to public school teachers maintained however that the gadgets it delivered to the Department of Education (DepEd) met all technical specifications imposed by the government, and were competitively priced.
Pimentel has filed a resolution urging the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to conduct an inquiry on the transaction, claiming that the computers as procured by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) were overpriced and outmoded.
The probe was meant to pinpoint accountability and introduce reforms in the government’s procurement laws and processes.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said she would also file a resolution seeking a similar investigation.
Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chair Francis Tolentino has yet to respond to media queries regarding the request to look into the laptop procurement.
The DepEd earlier said it welcomed congressional inquiries on the purchase of the laptops.
In its 2021 audit report on the computer deal, the COA described the laptops as “pricey” at P58,300 per unit, despite the education agency’s initial estimated cost of around P35,000.
The laptops were intended for public school teachers involved in distance learning, but the alleged excessive cost reduced the number of recipients from the original target of 68,500 to only 39,583.
Citing feedbacks from the teachers, the COA reported that the laptops were “too slow because the processor is Intel Celeron, which is outdated.”
DepEd spokesman Michael Poa said the agency would look into the allegations that the laptops were slow, adding that they would invoke the warranty clause of the purchase, and if necessary, would ask the supplier to fix or replace the computers.
Poa said the DepEd also asked DBM for documentation on the procurement.
In a statement, the joint venture Sunwest Construction and Development Corp. and LDLA Marketing & Trading, Inc. said the laptops fully complied with all technical specifications provided by the DepEd and the Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).
“The PS-DBM solicited bids for the supply and delivery of laptop computers with very specific technical requirements. As qualified bidders, we made an offer and won the comprehensive and competitive bidding fair and square. As of early this year, all units have been delivered to DepEd regional offices throughout the Philippines,” the consortium said.
The supplier also asserted that the laptop were 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.
This also includes customization of the items/units as required by DepEd.
“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. It is inaccurate and unfair to say that the offered price is for the laptops alone,” the statement added.
It also said that while the joint venture was contracted to supply the equivalent of a 10th generation processor, it actually delivered the 11th generation units which was the latest generation at the time of the procurement.
“Our clients can also attest that we have been faithfully honoring our after sales support and warranty and have been aiding end users through our after sales partners,” it said.
As to the audit findings, the supplier said it was not aware of any conclusive or final audit report that has been published by the COA. “We are ready and willing to participate in any proceedings where we will be given the opportunity to show that our product is reliable and capable for its intended use,” the joint venture said.
“Our companies have a combined experience spanning more than a decade, and we intend to protect our respective reputations as honest and ethical business enterprises,” it added.