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Senate panel recommends charges vs procurement, DepEd execs over laptops

PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

THE SENATE Blue Ribbon Committee has recommended the filing of criminal and administrative cases against current and former high officials of the procurement service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) and the Department of Education (DepEd) for the purchase of allegedly overpriced laptops for teachers.

“There is sufficient basis to believe that there was a conspiracy to facilitate and or generate an overprice which indicates manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable neglect on the part of senior officials and staff of the DepEd and the PS-DBM,” states the 197-page committee report released Thursday.

Results of the investigation, signed by 12 senators, showed a total overprice of at least P979 million after the procurement of more than 39,000 laptops at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

The panel wants to recover the overpaid amount as “proceeds of corruption,” Senator Francis N. Tolentino, who chairs the committee, said in a press briefing on Thursday.

This can be done, he said, through a Commission on Audit (CoA) issuance of notices of disallowance against DepEd officials involved in the approval of the purchase contracts.

These Education officials, along with former PS-DBM executive directors and others involved, will be tasked to collect and recover the value of the overprice, including accrued interest and damages.

Mr. Tolentino said they will be held jointly liable on the basis of the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines.

After recovery, the amount will be placed in a special National Teachers Trust Fund to support the health and medical needs of public-school teachers as well as the educational needs of their children through a special scholarship program.

The committee also recommended the abolition of PS-DBM.

The report also called for an amendment of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act to include more transparency and accountability safeguards.

The committee also asked the CoA to conduct a special fraud audit, and the Bureau of Internal Revenue to perform a special tax compliance audit or a tax fraud audit inquiry to determine relevant accountability.

It also requested the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to conduct an inquiry into bank deposits of the public officials identified in the investigation.

The report will be sent to the Office of the Ombudsman, CoA, Department of Justice, Bureau of Immigration, and AMLC Secretariat, among other government agencies with proper jurisdiction, for appropriate action on the panel recommendations. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan

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