Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian yesterday questioned if the Department of Education’s (DepEd) P69 million “service fee” to the Procurement Service- Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) was worth it.
Gatchalian posed the question to DepEd Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla during a Senate hearing.
“Is it worth the amount for a sloppy job?” Gatchalian said, in yesterday’s resumption of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the overpriced and outdated laptops worth P2.4 billion for the use of public school teachers during the time of pandemic.
He suggested that the P69 billion paid by DepEd to PS-DBM can be used to put up your own Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) and go back to bidding.
Acknowledging that the P69 million is huge, Sevilla however noted the DepEd saved 2 percent for the service fee which is usually 5 percent.
“The procurement agency usually charge 5 percent but after we and negotiated, the service fee was reduced to 3 percent,” the official said.
The actual service fee paid by DepEd to the PS-DBM was only 3 percent or P69.2 million of the P2.3 billion contract price.
“We saw in one document that it was indicated that it was 4 percent so we immediately checked wit the DBM—PS and we found out that it’s a a typographical error in the document because the actual service fee that was deducted is only 3 percent,” insisted Sevilla.
Earlier, Gatchalian pressed Sevilla if they were satisfied and happy in paying an additional P69.1 million to PS-DBM on top of jacking up the price of a laptop from P32,000 to P58,000.
Gatchalian said after hearing the details (of the laptop procurement), the P69 million service fee paid by the DepEd to the PS-DBM “is not worth the sloppy work.”
“We’re hoping after decades of existence of the PS-DBM, they would have perfected the art of procurement. But obviously that is not the case and yet various government agencies are paying as high 3 percent of their procurement price—in this particular case, P69 million for work that for obvious reasons is very sloppy and a lot of errors through out the process,” pointed out Gatchalian.
Committee chairman Francis Tolentino related that based on their hearings, there’s a little chaos in DepEd, but there’s more chaos in the PS-DBM.
However, he admitted they cannot still say if there was collusion between the two government agencies since they are still on preliminary matters.
Meanwhile, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano questioned the inclusion of regional DepEd directors as recipients of the laptops.
“It’s very clear in the Bayanihan 2, those laptops are for poor areas. What distribution did you do. You started with the regional director going down?”he asked.
He reminded the two departments- DepEd and DBM, of the clear instructions of then-President Rodrigo Duterte in his 2019 State of the Nation Address (SONA) for agencies to simplify their processes.
“I am just really upset that this all happened under a law that was supposed to help you help our students,” he said.
He also took notice of the delay in the procurement of laptops for teachers by DepEd under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act defeated the law’s purpose to aid the education system in switching to hybrid learning at the height of the pandemic.
He lamented how the two agencies took more than a year to deliver the laptops to the teachers from the time of Bayanihan 2’s passage.
Regardless of the price of the laptops and the flaws in the bidding process, he said it is clear that millions of Filipino youth are suffering from the delays.
He also said while Senate committee hearings are held in aid of legislation, reforms should not start only after a law is passed but when the people see that government officials are being held accountable for their acts.
Bayanihan 2, which was approved on September 11, 2020 by the House of Representatives under Cayetano’s leadership as House Speaker at the time, allotted a total of P4.35 billion to DepEd, of which P2.4 billion was used by the Department to buy laptops for teachers.
“Did the DepEd show a sense of urgency sa P4 billion na binigay sa inyo?” the Senator asked, adding that it was the department that asked for the funds from Congress in the first place.
Tracing the timeline, the Blue Ribbon Vice Chair questioned certain points in the process which he said were factors that led to the delay.
For one, he said it does not make sense that DepEd had to transfer the work to the PS-DBM since it had five BAC of its own at the time of Bayanihan 2.
When Sevilla said the Department only had one month left to finish the procurement before the lapse of Bayanihan 2, Cayetano reminded her that Bayanihan 2 had been extended another year during the time DepEd decided to pass the work to PS-DBM.
He also said DepEd had no excuse with regards to the deadline because the agency could have begun the bidding even with the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) still being processed.