EDITORIAL - ‘Pricey laptops’

The Philippine Star

In the previous admin­istration, the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management was at the heart of a scandal involving the Department of Health’s multibillion-peso procurement, through the PS-DBM, of personal protective equipment or PPEs including supposedly overpriced face shields as the COVID-19 pan­demic was starting.

If Commission on Audit reports released recently prove accurate, the PS-DBM also procured P1.38 billion worth of PPEs that were not registered with the Food and Drug Administration. And health items weren’t the only questionable PS-DBM pro­curements, according to the COA.

A congressional inquiry looms into the COA report that the Department of Edu­cation’s central office, through the PS-DBM, purchased P2.4 billion worth of laptops that were “pricey” for entry-level laptops and reportedly had “outdated” processors that seemed “too slow” for on­line learning. The PS-DBM has promised a “thorough examination” of the cost and technical specifications of the laptops.

When the scandal broke over the PPE procurements, mostly from the apparently well-connected but little-known Pharmally Pharma­ceutical Corp., several law­makers proposed the disman­tling of the PS-DBM. Then president Rodrigo Duterte’s strenuous defense of the government’s role in the procurements derailed ef­forts to implement necessary reforms.

The latest controversies should revive the urgency of reviewing the government’s procurement system and the role of the PS-DBM. Repub­lic Act 9184 or the Govern­ment Procurement Reform Act, passed in 2003, has un­dergone several revisions in its implementing rules and regulations. The IRR may need further fine-tuning, or a new law may have to be enacted to plug loopholes that open opportunities for corruption in government purchases.

The procurements exam­ined so far by state auditors cover those of the previous administration. By the time the COA focuses on pro­curements under the watch of President Marcos, the re­forms must be in place.


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