(MALAYA) A Department of Education official yesterday said the agency finalized the laptop contract with the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management even without a final Memorandum of Agreement for fear that the P2.4 billion allocated funds will revert to the National Treasury if not used on time.
DepEd Undersecretary for Finance Annalyn Sevilla said since the funds to purchase laptops for teachers’ distance learning program was sourced from RA 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2), the allocated funds will be invalid once Bayanihan 2 lapses on June 30, 2021.
“Na-obligate ito sometime February, pero hindi po naibibigay ang cash. Wala pa ‘yung cash at kung hindi namin maililipat ang cash sa PS-DBM by end of June 30 ay hindi na po valid ang Bayanihan 2 (This was obligated sometime (in) February (2021), but the cash was not given (to the PS-DBM). The cash was still not in our hands. If we do not transfer the cash to the PS-DBM by (the) end of June 30, Bayanihan 2 would not be valid anymore),” Sevilla said during the fourth hearing of the Blue Ribbon Committee on the outdated and pricey laptops flagged by the Commission on Audit.
Sevilla bared this as Sen. Francis Tolentino, panel chairman, questioned her on the supplemental statements submitted by Atty. Marcelo Bragado, DepEd’s procurement management division director, in connection with the chronology of events that led to the PS-DBM’s purchase of laptops.
Tolentino said his attention was caught by a note of Sevilla in one of documents submitted by Bragado that read: “That the entire P2.4 billion be used in the MOA as there is insufficient time left to wait for the contract amount. In any case whatever savings there may be, it will lapse if it stays with the agency.”
Tolentino said that based on her past testimony, the memorandum of agreement was notarized on February 16, 2021 but talks between DepEd and PS-DBM for the finalization of the agreement lasted until May 2021.
Bragado earlier claimed the MOA had been finalized on May 28, 2021.
Sevilla said she was wondering why Bragado, being the head of the DepEd procurement management service, had not furnished her a final copy of the MOA, adding what he kept sending her was a draft MOA.
“And our inputs were still being asked,” she added.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said he learned that the basis for closing the deal was a MOA entered into by DepEd and PS-DBM way back in 2017.
Dennis Santiago, PS-DBM executive director, said a final MOA had to be made before any deal could be finalized to determine the readiness of both parties. Besides, he added, the 2017 MOA did not cover the purchase of laptops.
Sevilla said the 2017 MOA only served as a guide, adding the 2021 MOA was the basis for the purchase of laptops.
“If we look at the final MOA of 2017, there is a provision which is actually a blanket authority, saying all procurements under the partnership of DepEd and PS-DBM (need) to be governed by this MOA),” she said.
Tolentino, in an interview after the hearing, said he will terminate the hearing after one more session that he still has to schedule.
Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada said one of the “favored” suppliers of the DepEd has been awarded close to P6 billion worth of contracts since 2015.
Estrada was referring to Advance Solutions Inc. (ASI) that he said was given “multiple” contracts for the DepEd’s information and communications technology requirements.
“The consistency of ASI being awarded the contracts does not raise suspicion? It seems there is favoritism due to the multiple contracts awarded to it,” Estrada said.
Fritzie Ventenilla, ASI representative of ASI, said while it’s true that their company had been awarded multiple contracts, it does not mean they are favored.
“We do not have a ‘contact’ in DepEd. We only talk with the one who is assigned during the contract implementation. We actively participate(d) in all DepEd biddings from 2013 to present. The P6 billion was awarded since 2013 to 2021,” Ventenilla said.
Estrada said COA and other appropriate agencies should investigate this.
COA supervising auditor for the DepEd Job Aguirre said the commission has already submitted an audit report on ASI.
Aside from ASI, Estrada earlier said there are four more suppliers that have bagged billions in contracts from the DepEd – Columbia Technologies Inc., Reddot Imaging Philippines Inc. Techguru Inc., and Girltekki Inc. -Raymond Africa/ Malaya