Heads to roll over laptop mess

(MANILA STANDARD) Sen. Tolentino says ‘revealing and explosive’ evidence unearthed

Heads will roll over the controversial P2.4-billion purchase of overpriced laptops for the Department of Education, Sen. Francis Tolentino said Thursday, guaranteeing that “many” will face charges following what he described as “revealing and explosive evidence” unearthed in yesterday’s Blue Ribbon Committee hearing.

Tolentino declined to say what charges awaited former and current officials of the Education department, the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service (DBM-PS), and even private contractors, particularly those who cornered multiple contracts from the DepEd through the DBM-PS.

The senator told reporters to wait for the final committee report after the conduct of one more hearing.

During Thursday’s hearing, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada pressed Abram Abanil, Board Member of the DBM-PS Special Bids and Awards Committee, if the firm LDLA had been previously awarded a contract to supply laptops to the DepEd by the budget bureau.

Abanil replied that LDLA bagged the contract only for the laptops, although it had previously bidded on other projects.

The official diary, Tolentino said, contained the DepEd’s everyday transactions in connection with the purchase of the laptops intended to be used by teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic, when in-person classes were banned, and online education was established.

“The contents of the official diary were very detailed, so they cannot be fabricated,” emphasized Tolentino, also a lawyer.

Estrada, meanwhile, asked Abanil how many times the firm Advance Solutions, Inc. (ASI) was awarded supply contracts by the DBM-PS or DepEd.

Abanil said when he was director, ASI was awarded once, but prior to his assuming office, the company was awarded contracts “multiple times” during the previous administration, without specifying how many.

But Estrada said based on his own research, ASI has been awarded similar contracts for the supply and delivery of DepEd’s IT or computer requirements since 2015, to which Abanil agreed.

The senator also revealed that ASI seemed to be a “favored” supplier of DepEd as it has cornered close to P6 billion in contracts for the agency’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) requirements.

He pointed out that awarding contracts to ASI, along with a few other “favored” suppliers, should have raised red flags within the DepEd and investigated by the Commission on Audit (COA), but no probe has been conducted so far on such practices.

“The consistency of ASI being awarded the contracts does not raise suspicion? With the contracts awarded to ASI, doesn’t it seem like there’s favoritism?” Estrada told DepEd officials.

PS-DBM’s Mora, meanwhile, said they already obtained the Agency Procurement Request, other required communications between the two agencies, and a draft MOA for the laptop procurement.

But since the bureau only had 51 calendar days to conduct the procurement, it pushed Mora to get clearance from Uayan.

According to Mora, when he was instructed by Uayan to post the invitation to bid, there was no final MOA yet.
Gatchalian then asked Uayan the basis of his instruction to post the invitation to bid.

Uayan said the 2017 MOA between the PS-DBM and the DepEd and the 2021 can be used for the laptop procurement.