(Photo courtesy of DepEd PH Facebook)

MANILA – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Friday described the PHP2.4-billion laptop mess as a great disservice to teachers.

In a news release, Gatchalian said the purchase of outdated and overpriced laptops deprived nearly 29,000 teachers of the much-needed equipment for teaching at the height of the pandemic.

He likewise repeated his call for the abolition of the Procurement Service - Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM), which he said has a "bad habit" of transferring funds so it would not be marked for low utilization or for not using its budget.

State auditors under the Department of Education's (DepEd) Agency Procurement Request (APR), pegged the price per laptop at PHP35,046.50.

The PS-DBM-approved budget for the contract (ABC), however, was PHP58,300 per laptop.

The Commission on Audit (COA) said it could not ascertain the PS-DBM’s basis for adopting the PHP58,300 in its ABC, which the DepEd duly accepted.

DepEd assured it is "working closely" with COA to ensure the continuous improvement of its services to the publc.

Because of the increased cost estimate from DepEd’s APR of PHP35,046.50 to PHP58,300 based on the PS-DBM’s recommendation, the supposed number of laptop units to be procured decreased from 68,500 to 39,583.

“Ang ating mga guro ang lubhang naaapektuhan dahil hindi tiniyak ng PS-DBM ang tamang presyo at kalidad ng mga laptop na kanilang binili para magamit sana ng ating mga guro (Our teachers were greatly affected because the PS-DBM did not ensure the correct pricing and quality of the laptops),” Gatchalian said.

On Thursday, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano filed Senate Resolution 134, directing the Committee on Accountability to investigate the procurement.

The laptops were procured as part of the implementation of Digital Education, Information Technology and Digital Infrastructures and Alternative Learning Modalities of the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act.

“There is a pressing need to ensure that the hard-earned money of taxpayers are put to good use, especially during this time of pandemic, and that the goals of the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act are achieved,” Cayetano said in the resolution. (With a report from Leonel Abasola/PR)