The Department of Education (DepEd) bought P2.4 billion worth of outdated and pricey laptops for teachers for the implementation of distance learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission on Audit (COA) said.
In its annual audit report on the agency for 2021, state auditors flagged DepEd for purchasing the P2.4 billion worth of laptops through the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM-PS) when there are cheaper and better options in the market.
The purchase of the more expensive laptops than the ones on budget resulted in the procurement of fewer units, depriving over 28,000 teachers of the benefit, COA said.
"Based on the initial feedbacks we gathered from the auditors in the NCR and Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), they stated that the delivered laptop computers by the winning bidder are too slow because the processor is .... outdated; and the price is too high based on the specifications as attached to the DepEd Memorandum," COA said.
State auditors said DepEd settled and agreed with the price and technical specification provided by DBM-PS.
"Per available documents, the Audit Team could not ascertain the DBM-PS' basis for adopting the unit price of P58,300. Apparently, the supposed number of laptops to be procured of 68,500 units was significantly reduced to 39,583 units which was mainly due to the huge increase of estimated cost P35,046 to P58,300 anchored on the DBM-PS' recommendation, which was duly accepted by the DepEd," COA pointed out.
"The price per unit is pricey for an entry-level type of laptop which resulted in significant decrease in the number of units provided to intended users. The huge difference of P23,253 per unit price resulted in a significant decrease by 28,917 laptop computers. Consequently, an estimated 28,917 teachers were deprived of the possible benefits from the supposed provision of these laptops," COA added.
In addition, COA said that the final amount of P58,000 per laptop unit is not advantageous to the DepEd, considering that the DBM-PS conducted a bidding for a mid-range type of laptop in May 2021 and found out that there is a cheaper option for buying laptop at P45,431 per unit.
"Clearly, the price [scouted in May 2021] is cheaper and the performance of that computer would be way faster/better than the laptop procured by the Department during that same period [in 2020]," COA said.
State auditors were referring to the time wherein DepEd also engaged the services of DBM-PS back in June 16, 2020, resulting in DepEd purchasing brand new laptops with a faster processor and with a unit price of only P32,500 or still cheaper that the P58,000 per unit purchased in 2021.
"The base price of the same model of ... laptop available in the market with a better screen currently monitored by the Audit Team revealed that the said model ranges from P22,490.00 up to P25,000.00 only," COA said.
In addition, COA said that the contract for the purchase of a laptop at P58,000 per unit was awarded to the second lowest calculated bidder.
"Both the 1st and 2nd lowest calculated bidders had filed their Motion for Reconsideration but only the latter's motion had been granted by the DBM-PS. However, the Declaration of Bid as Responsive and Recommending Award of Contract did not specify the reasons for granting the 2nd lowest calculated bidder's motion," state auditors said.
COA said the financial statements of the DepEd Central Office at yearend of 2021 show that the amount of P2.4 billion remained unliquidated due to the non-submission of supporting documents by the DBM-PS.
COA said DepEd should explain why it agreed with the P58,300 laptop price per unit despite the fact that the estimated price was based on DepEd's initial approved amount of P35,046.50 only.
Moreover, COA said DepEd should implement the following policies:
- evaluate the concerns raised by the recipients on the conditions, performance, and technical specifications of the laptops and communicate the same to DBM-PS for appropriate action;
- require the DBM-PS to submit the requirements per COA Circular No. 2009-001 including the necessary documents to support and record the liquidation of the fund transferred amounting to P2.4 billion pursuant to Items 6.5 and 6.6 of the MOA;
- consider posting the notices, contract award, and other documents on DepEd's official websites pursuant to Item 6.3 of the MOA; and
- require the DBM-PS to submit the requirements per COA Circular No. 2009-001 including the necessary documents to support and record the liquidation of the fund transferred amounting to P2.4 billion pursuant to Items 6.5 and 6.6 of the MOA
In response to COA's findings, DepEd submitted the following documents:
- nomination of focal persons for teachers' laptops project (Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) and Technical Working Group (TWG)
- nomination of additional focal person/TWG member;
- request for approval to Transfer the Fund of the Project: Laptops for Teachers to the DBM-PS;
- Agency Procurement Request;
- Justification to Modify Connectivity Load for Senior High School under Bayanihan Act II into Laptops for Teachers;
- DBM Reply Document;
- Response to DBM Reply Document;
- Request letter to Budget Secretary Wendell Avisado from Education Secretary Leonor Briones to modify the P2.4 billion fund for General Management and Supervision - Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) provision of mobile/internet load to some 3.2 million senior high school learners nationwide to DepEd Computerization Program - Capital Outlay; among others.
COA, however, said that the management, referring to DepEd, failed to submit its comments on the other recommendations by state auditors.
As of posting time, GMA News Online has yet to receive response from the DepEd spokesperson who was asked for comment.—LDF, GMA News