FRAUD AUDIT REQUEST. Education Undersecretary and Chief-of-staff Epimaco Densing III answers queries from the media in a press briefing on Monday (Aug. 15, 2022). Densing said Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte has ordered to request a fraud audit from the Commission on Audit on the procurement of the controversial laptops for teachers through the Procurement Services of the Department of Budget and Management. (PNA Photo: Alfred Frias)

MANILA – The Department of Education (DepEd) on Monday requested a fraud audit from the Commission on Audit (COA), as ordered by Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte, to look into the alleged overpriced and outdated laptops purchased for teachers.

In a press briefing, DepEd Undersecretary and Chief-of-staff Epimaco Densing III said they have already transmitted their letter to COA Chairperson Jose Calida.

“In the meantime, while we are not yet declaring that there is a fraudulent transaction that happened at that time, we’re also not saying that there is none… Kaya nga po ang direktiba po sa’min ni Secretary, ni VP Sara, paimbestigahan niyo na ‘yan, para makita kung mayroon bang kalokohan o wala (That’s why the directive to us by VP Secretary Sara, let it be investigated, to see whether or not there’s an irregularity),” he said.

Densing said Duterte gave the go signal last Friday to request a fraud audit from COA on the procurement of the PHP2.4 billion laptops through the Procurement Services of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).

“Ang tinitingnan po namin ngayon (What we are looking at) is not an official investigation yet, and this is the reason why we are asking COA to do a fraud audit, the reason why it was downgraded from 1.9 gigahertz to 1.8 gigahertz. At the same time tumaas din ang presyo (the price also increased), and why is it [an] Intel Celeron,” he added.

He said all the documents “immediately given” by the PS-DBM upon the DepEd’s request have already been submitted to the COA.

Densing said the DepEd prefers to conduct future purchases under its own team to avoid similar controversies after the COA flagged the 2021 report on the procurement of the PHP2.4 billion laptops for online classes amid the Covid-19-pandemic.

“Kami sa execom ng DepEd (We in the DepEd executive committee), we are already one that for future procurement, we will do our procurement via our own procurement service here at the DepEd, and hopefully wala nang mga ganung klase ng budget na ibibigay out of the blue, para hindi na rin tayo dumaan sa PS-DBM (there will be no longer a budget given out of the blue, so we don’t have to go through PS-DBM),” he said.

Last Friday, the PS-DBM, headed by Executive Director Dennis Santiago, turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) documents related to the procurement of the DepEd’s laptops.

Santiago earlier directed his office to conduct a thorough examination of COA’s findings, emphasizing that the mandate of the PS-DBM is to ensure a transparent and competitive procurement process.

“The NBI is a highly competent investigation authority to take over the matter to ensure that the probe would be fair, impartial, and independent. We do not want any room for suspicion,” Santiago said.

Santiago added that the move to request the NBI to step in was made after the examination showed alleged discrepancies in the initial findings, which are similar to COA’s observations. (PNA)