THE Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has recommended the filing of charges against former and current officials of the Department of Education (DepEd) over the laptop procurement mess.

In a committee report released on Thursday, January 19, 2023, committee chairman Senator Francis Tolentino said based on the evidences presented during their probe on the “highly irregular” laptop procurement of the DepEd, which was coursed through the controversial Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM), the overprice was established to have reached at least P979 million for more than 39,000 units.

The committee recommended the filing of graft, falsification of public documents and perjury charges against the following officials:

*Former DepEd Undersecretary Alain del B. Pascua

*DepEd Undersecretary Annalyn M. Sevilla

*Former DepEd Assistant Secretary Salvador C. Malana III

*Director Abram Y.C. Abanil

*Former PS-DBM officer-in-charge (OIC) executive director Lloyd Christopher Lao

*Former PS-DBM OIC executive director Jasonmer L. Uayan

*Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) Chairman Ulysses E. Mora as well as the other members of the Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) I and SBAC technical working group and secretariat, whether from DepEd or PS-DBM

*Engineer Marwan O. Amil

“In addition, the committee found basis for the filing of administrative charges for grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, gross neglect of duty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service against said officials,” Tolentino said in a statement.

The report also contained recommendations for the abolition of the PS-DBM and urged government departments, agencies, offices, instrumentalities, including government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), states universities and colleges (SUCs) and local governments to refrain from delegating procurement tasks and to conduct their own procurement as an exercise of their fiduciary duty of accountability for public funds appropriated for their respective offices.

The PS-DBM had been in hot water due to their implication in the procurement of “overpriced” medical supplies at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, which also prompted the launch of a Senate inquiry.

The Senate investigation stemmed from the 2021 audit report of the Commission on Audit (COA), which flagged the DepEd over the procurement of laptops through the PS-DBM that it found to be overpriced considering its outdated processors.

The DepEd initially asked the PS-DBM to procure laptops worth P35,046 each but it later accepted the PS-DBM’s pricing at P58,300 each.

The laptops are intended for teachers as well as learners amid the implementation of distance learning.

The committee report also called for the amendment of Republic Act No. 9184, or the procurement law, and its implementing rules and regulations, to include more robust transparency and accountability safeguards to prevent recurrence of procurement anomalies, especially for large-scale procurement projects.

It also included a strong recommendation for the recovery of the amount of the overprice through the issuance of notice of disallowances by COA and the filing of civil complaints against the concerned officialsm and the amount of the recovered proceeds to be placed in a special National Teachers Trust Fund. This will be created for the benefit of the teachers to support their health and medical needs as well as the educational needs of their children through a special scholarship program.

The report is expected to be forwarded in due course to the Office of the Ombudsman, the Commission on Audit, the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Immigration, the Anti-Money Laundering Council Secretariat, among other agencies of government with the proper jurisdiction, for their appropriate action on the panel recommendations as may be warranted by the evidence. (SunStar Philippines)