RESOLUTIONS have been filed at the Senate calling for separate probes on laptop purchases and scholarship fund disbursement by education agencies that were flagged by state auditors.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Martin “Koko” D. Pimentel III filed Senate Resolution 120 to investigate the alleged overpriced and outdated laptops purchased by the Department of Education (DepEd) through the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service (DBM-PS).
Mr. Pimentel said it is “imperative for the DepEd and the DBM-PS to explain the basis for the charge in the unit price (from P35,046.50 to P58,300) and the number of laptop units (from 68,500 to 39,583) to be procured by the DBM-PS.”
They must also explain the subsequent approval and acceptance of the DepEd of these laptops that were not in accordance with its budget and original specifications, he said.
The laptops for public school teachers were procured for the implementation of distance learning amid the coronavirus pandemic. Funds were sourced from the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act with a budget of P2.4 billion.
The Commission on Audit (CoA) said the price of the delivered units were too high for the technical specifications provided.
“The huge difference of P23,253.50 per unit price resulted in significant decrease by 28,917 laptop computers, purportedly for distribution to intended recipient-teachers which could have helped them in performing their tasks in the blended learning set-up,” it said.
The audit report also cited that the laptops were too slow as the processor was outdated.
CoA also flagged the lack of documentary requirements, including one to support the fund transfer of the P2.4-billion budget to DBM-PS, which remained unliquidated at the end of last year.
“It is within the purview of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, and we look forward to the committee calling in these officials of PS-DBM so that these numerous issues are investigated,” Senator Ana Theresia “Risa” N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said in a separate statement on Thursday.
“The characters from Pharmally seem to be reprising their earlier villainous roles in the new anomalies flagged by CoA,” she added, referring to the allegedly overpriced medical supplies purchased by PS-DBM for the Health department.
Meanwhile, Ms. Hontiveros filed a resolution to investigate the Commission on Higher Education’s (CHED) scholarship unit over the “questionable release” of P7 billion worth of funds.
State auditors reported that CHED’s Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) had P3.4 billion worth of delayed and non-submissions of billings and documents to state and local universities and colleges.
“UniFAST is supposed to be the answer to the gap in education for millions of underprivileged youths. And yet the program is stained with suspicious overpayments and double reimbursements,” Ms. Hontiveros said.
“We must be careful with the budget allocation for this, especially at a time when many are struggling to pay tuition,” she added. “This could be just the tip of the iceberg of dubious practices in CHED-UniFAST.”
The resolution also cited that UniFAST made payments to universities and colleges without official receipts, released overpayments, gave funds to institutions that were already fully-subsidized, and had duplicate entries of beneficiaries, among other lapses.
“For a country experiencing an education crisis, I am shocked by the billions we have been careless with,” Ms. Hontiveros said. “In the midst of these harsh circumstances that have affected the education of a whole generation, our agencies must shine light on these plausibly shady practices.” — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan