Senator seeks probe into DepEd’s ‘favored suppliers’

SEN. Jinggoy Estrada yesterday sought a probe into the Department of Education’s alleged “favored suppliers,” saying he always “encounters the names” of these suppliers in nearly all of the department’s contracts “that run into billions of pesos over the years.”

Estrada made the call as the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee resumed its inquiry into the P2.4 billion procurement of pricey but outdated laptops made by the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management for the DepEd.

Estrada urged his colleagues to investigate the alleged practice of “splitting of contracts” so that “favored” suppliers will be awarded contracts.

In a statement, Estrada pointed out that he “always encounter(s)” the names of the same set of suppliers in almost all contracts entered into by the DepEd, adding that chopping a big contract into smaller ones is prohibited under RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

He identified these suppliers as ASI or Advance Solutions Inc., Columbia Technologies, Reddot Imaging Philippines, 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?” Estrada said.

He said some of the suppliers that have been awarded billions of pesos worth of contracts to supply Chinese-made computers to the DepEd do not even have websites, adding 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.

He said the “favored” suppliers have virtually gone “scot-free” since no one among them has been subjected to a Senate inquiry or have been audited by the Commission on Audit amid the DepEd’s questionable procurement practices.

As an example, Estrada said that ASI and Columbia Technologies have been supplying DepEd for many years and the value of their accumulated contracts have amounted to billions.

“Why were they not scrutinized before? The same with Reddot Imaging, Girl Teki and Tech Guru. Why were they not subjected to an investigation or an audit report by COA?” Estrada said.

“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 said it is very likely that some of DepEd’s “favored” suppliers that were not awarded the contract to supply the P2.4 billion worth of laptops were merely “sour-graping” and even appeared as “resource speakers” during the Senate probe.

He said government agencies should allow new bidders to participate in the bidding process.

“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?” he said. – Raymond Africa/ Malaya