MANILA – Reforming the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) should be among the priority projects of Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman to save taxpayers' money, Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto said.

In a statement on Thursday, Recto said Pangandaman should prepare “an exit plan” that will phase down PS-DBM’s big ticket procurement activities, considering that the Commission on Audit (COA) discovered irregularities in the operations of the buying arm of the government.

“I have no doubt that the highly capable Secretary Pangandaman will do what is right. These are problems she inherited and I think that she will not allow these to continue,” Recto said. “The DBM is under new management. With the change of guards comes a change of rules for the better."

Recto said the department should return the allotments for procurements still in the early stages to the government agencies which tapped the PS-DBM as their buying agent.

“Those in the last-mile of procurement should be allowed to finish. Pero ‘yung hindi pa nasisimulan, kailangan na siguro i-return to sender (But those that haven't completely started yet should be returned to the sender [or government agency]),” Recto said.

Recto said any drive to reforming the Procurement Service should begin with DBM leadership’s commitment “to reject orders and pressures from above or anywhere that they conduct the bidding of goods, the nature of which are beyond their technical skills to evaluate.”

“’Yan ang simula. Na huwag hayaan ang PS gamitin bilang isang (That's the start. We shouldn't let the PS become a) parking lot of funds, or a facility to extend the validity of fund allotments,” Recto said.

The COA recently flagged the implementation of distance learning procurement last 2021, particularly on the PHP2.4 billion worth of allegedly "pricey yet outdated" laptops for teachers.

According to the audit report, the PS-DBM bought outdated laptops for PHP58,300 each.

“The Audit Team could not ascertain the DBM-PS' basis for adopting the unit price of PHP58,300. Apparently, the supposed number of laptops to be procured of 68,500 units was significantly reduced to 39,583 units which was mainly due to the huge increase of estimated cost from PHP35,046 to PHP58,300 anchored on the DBM-PS' recommendation, which was duly accepted by the DepEd (Department of Education)," the COA said.

DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa previously said it has provided necessary documentary requirements in response to the COA 2021 report.

Poa said they have responded to the Audit Observation Memorandum, which he insisted is something that is not “conclusive.” (PNA)