COA: Of 44 smartphones NTC bought, only 4 used as intended

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
COA: Of 44 smartphones NTC bought, only 4 used as intended
This undatetd photo shows the facade of the office of the National Telecommunications Commission.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — State auditors flagged the purchase of 44 smartphones by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) totalling P2.1 million in 2018 and 2019 for being “excessive” as only four of them were being used for their intended purpose.

Of the 15 Samsung Galaxy S9 phones and the 29 Samsung Galaxy S10 phones bought by the NTC’s headquarters and Metro Manila office, the Commission on Audit (COA) found that only four phones were being used by engineers to measure broadband speed, reliability and coverage.

The COA found that of the 13 personnel conducting tests to measure broadband speeds, only three of them were issued the smartphones, while the rest had to borrow from other personnel to conduct tests.

So where are the rest of the smartphones? The NTC admitted in their reply to the COA that these were issued to branch directors and officers-in-charge and their technical staff.

In their defense, the NTC said that these officials also conducted broadband testing “anytime and anywhere” and that the smartphones helped them in the “conduct of their study and research so they can propose or formulate new policies or regulations for improved services.”

But the COA said these broadband tests and the use of the smartphones for study and research should have also been documented.

“We believe that there should be documentations prepared as a result of these activities to be used as inputs in the formulation of new policies or regulations,” state auditors said.

The COA also questioned why the NTC headquarters bought 22 units of the Samsung Galaxy S10 for P49,990 each, when the NTC office in Metro Manila was able to buy seven units of the same phone for just P46,500 each.

“Apparently, the public bidding conducted by the CO (central office) did not attain the intended result of obtaining the most advantageous price for the government,” the COA said.

In their reply, the NTC said that they would be violating the implementing rules and regulations of the procurement law if they negotiated with the lone bidder for the smartphones.

But the COA said the NTC could have just adjusted the approved budget for the contract and the project cost to exclude suppliers who are offering smartphones at a higher price compared to what the agency’s Metro Manila office obtained.

“Management’s failure to take such actions therefore led it to enter into a contract that can be considered as disadvantageous to the government,” state auditors said.

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