By Lance Arevada

State auditors have flagged the reported purchase of the Department of Education (DepEd) in 2021 of about P2.4 billion worth of laptops for teachers that were discovered to be “too slow” with the price as “too high” due to the outdated processors used and further specifications.

Photo Courtesy of DepEd/Manila Bulletin/TechnophilePH

In the audit report by the Commission of Audit (COA), the agency noted that DepEd had bought the laptops for the implementation of its distance learning program through the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM-PS).

The purchased laptops, amounting to P58,300 each, were reported to have been too expensive, given that there are cheaper options available that would still have complied with the specifications set by the DBM-PS.

This has resulted in a significant decrease in the procurement of the said laptops from the initial 68,500 to 39,583 units due to the adopted unit price of P58,300. The auditors also noted that they could not determine the basis for adopting such a price, especially when the initial estimated cost per unit was around P35,046 to P58,300.

Due to these adjustments, the number of public school teachers that could have benefitted from the program has decreased by more than 40%.

“The price per unit is pricey for an entry-level type of laptop which resulted in significant decrease in the number of units provided to intended users… Consequently, an estimated 28,917 teachers were deprived of the possible benefits from the supposed provision of these laptops,” COA said in its report.

The auditors also said that the laptops have Intel Celeron processors, the slowest type of processor in the market, meant for personal and daily usage.

In addition, DepEd’s procurement of the said units has been proven to be more disadvantageous, considering that in a bidding by DBM-PS in May 2021, there were mid-range laptops available for only P45,431 per unit.

With this report, COA has asked Deped: “We recommended that Management explain why the amount of P58,300.00 price per unit was accepted by DepEd as part of DBM-PS’s recommended ABC despite the fact that the estimated price based on DepEd’s approved APP and APR are P35,046.50 only.”

Compared to the price of other laptops available in the market, an Apple Macbook Air M1 costs about P57,990 in its official store, which is about P310 cheaper than DepEd’s laptop unit. In addition, prices for an Acer Aspire 7 and Lenovo ThinkPadE14 Gen 3 laptops are valued at P48,999 and P50,995 each in their official stores.

It is important to note that the said laptops have way more advanced and updated processors and features than the Intel Celeron processor of the DepEd purchased laptops.

‘Documents already submitted’

In response to the COA report, DepEd Spokesperson Atty. Michael Poa said they are “aware” of the said observation and have already submitted the document the agency has asked for.

“On the part of the Department of Education, we have already submitted the documentary requirements that they asked from us and we are waiting for an update on that,” he said.

Poa also emphasized that the report from state auditors is only findings and is inconclusive.

Meanwhile, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) has criticized DepEd following the COA report and has called for an investigation of the anomalies in the said procurement.

“It hurts us teachers that while we are taking loans to buy laptops, that there are anomalies in the use of funds for these… There should be an in-depth investigation to hold those who were accountable for wasting money to profit from these transactions,” ACT Chairperson Vladimer Quetua said.

Edited by Audrei Jeremy Mendador