COA: DepEd spent P2.4 billion on ‘pricey, outdated’ laptops for teachers in 2021

The Commission on Audit (COA) issued an audit observation memorandum in March regarding the purchase of P2.4 billion worth of allegedly “outdated and expensive” laptops for teachers as part of the implementation of distance learning in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Department of Education (DepEd), which confirmed this on Thursday.

“What I know is we have already submitted the documentary requirements they requested, so we are just awaiting feedback from COA,” Michael Poa, DepEd spokesperson, said at a press briefing.

The audit of observation, he continued, was only a finding and “does not indicate that it’s conclusive.”

The Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan was plagued by poor procurement, delays, and missing supporting documentation, and DepEd was also criticized by the COA for spending P4.5 billion of its budget on it.

“We will look at what really happened. But in general, there were instances of delay in procurement because of our (COVID-19 infection) surges last year,” Poa said.

“We will look into it first but what we’re doing is right now … we’re responding to whatever COA wants us to respond to and then we’ll see what the final determination is,” he added.

The number of intended teacher-beneficiaries nationwide was reduced by almost half as a result of DepEd’s P2.4 billion purchase of teachers’ laptops through the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service (DBM-PS), which was “pricey for an entry-level type laptop,” according to the COA’s 2021 annual audit report.

The number of intended beneficiaries was “adversely cut from 68,500 to 39,583 public school instructors,” according to state auditors, as a result of the costly laptop purchases.

In response to the pandemic, DepEd set aside P2.4 billion from its budget through Republic Act No. 11494, also known as the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, in order to purchase computers for public school teachers. For the purchase of the computers, it used the DBM-PS.

The COA noted that while the DBM-PS recommended approved budget for the contract (ABC) was set at P58,300 per laptop, DepEd’s Agency Procurement Request (APR) indicated P35,046.50 per laptop.

“Per available documents, the Audit Team could not ascertain the DBM-PS basis for adopting the unit price of P58,300 in the ABC. 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 from P35,046.50, based on DepEd’s submitted and approved APR, to P58,300 anchored on the DBM-PS recommendation, which was duly accepted by DepEd,” the COA said.

The enormous discrepancy of P23,253.50 per unit “resulted in a large decline by 28,917 laptop computers, ostensibly for distribution to intended recipient-teachers, which could have aided them in executing their duties in the blended learning arrangement,” the report stated.

The DBM-PS laptop devices were cheaper at P45,431.20, faster, and better at roughly the same time, or in May 2021 when DepEd ordered computers also for public school instructors. State auditors also noted that changes to the ABC standards were detrimental to DepEd.

DepEd also used the DBM-services PS’s in June 2020 to purchase new laptops with faster processors for P32,500 each.

The second lowest calculated bidder (a consortia) that initially failed the post-qualification, according to the COA, was given the contract for the laptop computers.

The DBM-PS only granted the appeal of the second lowest bidder, even though both the first and second lowest bidders had submitted applications for reconsideration.

“The DBM-PS eventually declared the consortium’s bid responsive, notwithstanding that some of the technical aspects of its bid were not compliant with the requirements,” it said, adding that the fund of P2.4 billion transferred to the DBM-PS remained unliquidated as of end-2021 due to the nonsubmission of supporting documents by the DBM-PS to DepEd.

“Relatedly, the costs of the laptop computers procured through the DBM-PS were not yet recorded in the DepEd Central Office’s books, and the subsequent dropping therefrom upon delivery of said items to recipient schools was not undertaken,” the COA noted.

Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), a progressive instructors’ organization, has attacked DepEd’s promotion of the Brigada Eskwela, which forced teachers to solicit donations, while the COA has raised concerns about the department’s poor handling of its funds.

“It hurts us teachers that while we are taking loans to buy laptops, [we would find out] that there are anomalies in the use of funds for these,” ACT chair Vladimer Quetua said in a statement.

“There should be an in-depth investigation to hold those who were accountable for wasting money to profit from these transactions,” he said.



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One comment

  1. Grabe talaga DepEd!

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