PS-DBM tagged corruption cesspool

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday tagged the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management as a corruption “breeding ground” during a congressional investigation on the agency’s procurement of allegedly overpriced laptops for the Department of Education.

Hontiveros pointed out that the Commission on Audit has flagged various “irregularities” in the PS-DBM’s procurements across multiple agencies amounting to billions of pesos as of 25 August.

“The PS-DBM is a breeding ground of inefficiency, negligence, and corruption. A whopping P6.5 billion worth of irregularities in 2021 alone; a history of dubious transactions (and), not to mention that CoA reports are not yet complete,” Hontiveros said during a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing.

“What has been uncovered so far is just the tip of the iceberg. It looks like it has been a practice in the PS-DBM. The fact that this spans multiple agencies is a huge red flag. So many government programs are affected by this, and during a pandemic year at that,” she added.

She cited CoA’s 2021 report that the PS-DBM failed to provide proof of purchases and figured in the non-delivery of items, as follows: P1.696 billion between 2010-2021 for the Philippine National Police, P795.7 million for the Department of Agrarian Reform, P704.9 million for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and P60.36 million for the Department of Technology and Information.

At the center of the “irregularities” cited by CoA were the P2.4 billion worth of “overpriced” laptops for the DepEd, and the P185.6 million worth of deficiencies in PS-DBM’s distribution of Covid-19 items.

CoA also blew the whistle on unliquidated PS-DBM transactions, namely: BFAR at P31.1 million, Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries at P22.73 million, Philippine Trade Training Center at P11.828 million, Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority at P8.975 million, Mines and Geosciences under DENR at P8.125 million, Construction Industry Authority of the Philippines at P3.192 million, National Water Resources Board at P176,000 and P1.646 million for prior years, Board of Investments at P1.053 million and P635,570 for multiple years, and NAMRIA attached to DENR at P358,802.68.

According to Hontiveros, the audit unit also reported that large unutilized or excess advances in the PS-DBM budget were unremitted to the Bureau of Treasury: P511.37 million for the Bureau of Fire Protection, P22.99 million undelivered under the Philippine Navy, P17.5 million for the Public Attorney’s Office, P13.86 million for the Philippine Information Agency, and P10.64 million unremitted for the Bureau of Immigration.

Citing the alleged anomalies, she backed the calls of fellow senators like Imee Marcos to abolish the PS-DBM. She also urged the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the CoA reports.

Former DepEd chief Leonor Briones appeared before the Senate panel in a wheelchair and said she was not hiding contrary to vlogs and online reports. Briones said she has been serving as director of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Centre for Educational Innovation and Technology.

“So we service not only the Philippines on issues on education but also the rest of Southeast Asia. So thank you for this opportunity for me to come out and say I’m not hiding under somebody’s bed,” Briones told the committee chaired by Senator Francis Tolentino.

“I am as visible as I can be. I am very involved in international debates as well as concerned in developments in the Philippines,” she added.

She said DepEd during her time sought the help of PS-DBM in purchasing the laptops because it was a big transaction. “We passed on or endorsed the project to them because though we do have a Bids and Awards Committee, we needed a huge BAC for this huge allocation,” Briones said.

She added DepEd was preparing to resume in-person classes at the time of the laptops’ procurement thus it was delegated to PS-DBM the search for suppliers.

In the same hearing, Former PS-DBM officer-in-charge Lloyd Christopher Lao claimed the supply of laptops at the time of the procurement was limited due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Based on my recollection, although there’s a disparity in the technical specifications, there were also add-ons in the requirements of DepEd like warranty, servicing, software. I’m not familiar with that,” he said.

The approved price for each laptop was originally around P35,000, but the actual purchase price reached P58,000.

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