Senators want PS-DBM reinvestigated over PPE and laptop deals

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 11) — The two members of the Senate minority bloc want a new investigation into the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) on the recently published findings of the Commission on Audit (COA).

Senator Risa Hontiveros announced Thursday that she would table a resolution to investigate the PS-DBM’s reported approval of personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts lacking the necessary certification, as well as the purchase of laptops allegedly overpriced for the Department of Education (DepEd).

“[seems] to reprise their previous roles as kontrabida in the new anomalies reported by COA.”

“This falls within the purview of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, and we look forward to the committee summoning these PS-DBM officials to review these many issues,” the senator added.

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, meanwhile, has already tabled a resolution to investigate the agency’s £2.4 billion laptop deal with DepEd.

“Corruption in public procurement is not just about losing money. It also reduces the quality of government work or services to the people, in this case our child learners,” he said. in the resolution tabled on Wednesday.

PPE without proper certification

In a 2021 audit report posted online last month, the COA said the PS-DBM had approved PPE contracts totaling £1.38 billion despite the lack of a notification certificate from medical device (CMDN).

The Food and Drug Administration requires manufacturers and importers to obtain a CMDN in order for their products to be marketed and distributed in the country. This is an additional measure to ensure that medical equipment has undergone an FDA quality and safety assessment.

PS-DBM, for its part, argued that there was an urgent need for the market and instead allowed the presentation of “equivalent foreign documents” for imported PPE.

“It is safe to say that personal protective equipment has been purchased for extraordinary times,” the PS-DBM said. “As such, it is important to take into consideration that existing rules and regulations may, if not unenforceable, be very difficult to implement given the unpredictable and constantly changing situations during these times,” added the agency, noting ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns.

The same COA report also flagged the purchase of laptops for teachers which cost over ₱58,000 each while the estimated approved price was only around ₱35,000.

Because of this huge price difference, state auditors said only 39,583 units were acquired instead of the supposed 68,500. They further noted that the base price of the same model in the market – but with a better screen – was only around ₱22,490 to ₱25,000. Although more expensive, teachers reported that entry-level laptops with older processors were slow.

DepEd said earlier that it had already submitted documents in response to the COA’s findings. The new PS-DBM leader said he would investigate the issue internally.

An internal bill to probe the purchase of laptops was also tabled by the Makabayan bloc earlier this week.

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