Jinggoy questions DepEd on allegedly favored contractors

(GMA NEWS) Senator Jinggoy Estrada on Thursday questioned the Department of Education’s award of its computer and other information technology contracts to a few suppliers.

At the continuation of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s inquiry into the procurement of expensive and outdated laptops, Estrada said one of them, Advance Solutions Inc., had bagged close to P6 billion in deals for the DepEd’s requirements.

Estrada at a previous hearing on the laptops probe, identified several other suppliers whom he said got most of the DepEd contracts.

“The consistency under which ASI or the Advance Solutions, Inc has been awarded these contracts, does that not raise suspicion?” Estrada asked.

Director Abram Abanil of the DepEd said it was not his department’s mandate to investigate previous projects but to procure existing projects.

“You awarded several contracts in favor of ASI in billions of pesos and based on my own research, umaabot na ng anim na bilyon. Hindi ba kataka-taka yan?”

Abanil said it was not his job to investigate the previous contracts into which the DepEd entered. He said it should be the DepEd’s Legal Affairs, Internal Audit Service or the Commission on Audit that should lead the probe.

When Estrada asked about the alleged favoritism, Fritze Ventinilla of ASI said that the firm had no contact with the DepEd aside from those assigned during contract implementation.

“Actually, your honor, hindi naman po paborito. We actively participate in all DepEd biddings simula pa noong 2013 to present,” Ventinilla said.

“Wala naman po kaming contact kundi kung sino lang po yung mga ina-assign during contract implementation. ‘Yun lang po ang mga kausap namin,” she added.

(Actually, your honor, we’re not favorites. We actively participate in all DepEd biddings since 2013 to present. We don’t have any contact except those who have been assigned during the contract implementation. Those are the only ones we talk to.)

Ventinilla said ASI’s contracts were awarded from 2013 up to 2021.

COA Supervising Auditor Job Aguirre Jr. said there were already audit findings on the other suppliers previously mentioned by Estrada and it was included in the Consolidated Annual Audit Report of the DepEd for 2021.

But for the ASI, Aguirre said he was not yet the supervising auditor at that time.

Estrada then asked Aguirre if he has plans to investigate the numerous contracts awarded to ASI.

While Aguirre said all of these contracts went through public bidding, he committed to conduct a review on the ASI contracts.

Estrada requested Aguirre to submit a report on this issue and submit it to the committee. —NB, GMA News