SENATOR Jinggoy Estrada is seeking a Senate investigation into the Department of Education’s (DepEd) computer procurement program to determine if it has resorted to the practice of “splitting of contracts” to be able to grant multi-billion peso deals to only a few “favored” suppliers of the agency.
In a statement, Estrada said awarding contracts to the same set of suppliers and chopping a big contract into smaller ones are prohibited under Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.
“Based on my research on DepEd’s contracts, I always encounter the names of ASI or Advance Solutions Inc., Columbia Technologies, Reddot Imaging Philippines, Techguru Inc., and Girl Teki Inc. Why are these suppliers so lucky that they almost always win juicy Deped contracts that run into billions of pesos over the years?” he asked.
Estrada said that some of the suppliers that bagged billions of pesos worth of contracts to supply Chinese-made computers to the DepEd do not even have websites, and their offices are located in obscure addresses in Manila.
“I also noticed that there have been several repeat orders made in favor of these suppliers. Take note that under Section 51 of the IRR [Implementing Rules and Regulations] of Republic Act 9184… the effect of repeat orders is that it dispenses with or foregoes the conduct of competitive public bidding,” he said.
Estrada said he was perplexed over the intense inquiry into the controversial P2.4-billion laptops purchase in 2021, while DepEd’s ‘favored’ suppliers have virtually gone ‘scot free’ with not even a single inquiry or audit by the Commission on Audit (COA) despite DepEd’s questionable procurement practices.
“For instance, Advance Solutions, Inc. and Columbia Technologies have been supplying DepEd for many years and the value of their accumulated contracts amounts to billions. Why were they not scrutinized before? The same with Reddot Imaging, Girl Teki, and Tech Guru. Bakit hindi sila subjected sa investigation o audit report ng COA before?” he asked.
“Do we even know if these computers were all delivered and are working? Where are these computers now? Can DepEd account for them?” he added.
Estrada suggested that it’s very likely that some of DepEd’s favored suppliers like ASI, which lost the bidding for the P2.4 billion laptops purchase deal last year are merely “sourgraping” and even appeared as “resource speakers” during a formal Senate probe.
“Since when has the Senate become a forum to hear the gripes of losing bidders?” he asked.
Estrada said allowing new suppliers to participate in the bidding for government contracts makes for a healthy competitive environment.
“We should be more welcoming to new players that would make for better competition. Don’t you think we are discouraging these new players from participating in government biddings if they are singled out for investigation?” the senator stressed.