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MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Education (DepEd) split hundreds of millions worth of procurement contracts around 2021 to 2023, an action the Commission on Audit (COA) said is “not allowed.”
The COA flagged procurement transactions of the DepEd regional offices (ROs) and schools division offices (SDOs) totaling P400.94 million, deeming them contrary to the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Philippines’ procurement law.
Seven SDOs and three ROs split or did not consolidate transactions amounting to around P273.96, state auditors found.
According to the COA, splitting of government contracts is “not allowed.” It defined splitting contracts as “the division or breaking up of contracts into smaller quantities and amounts or dividing contract implementation into artificial phases or sub-contracts for the purpose of evading or circumventing the requirements of the law and its IRR.”
Specifically, the COA tagged the DepEd II (Cagayan Valley) Regional Office Proper for dividing requisitions and contracts amounting to P245.36 million.
Government auditors noted that the office did not comply with the minimum technical specifications in procuring tablets for students in the fourth quarter of school year 2021 to 2022, and the first two quarters of school year 2022 to 2023.
The COA also found contract splitting in SOCCSKSARGEN-Sarangani SDO at P10.11 million, Caraga SDO Bislig at P1 million, Eastern Visayas Llorente National High School and Southern Samar National Comprehensive High School at P2.39 million, SDO Isabela at P3.87 million, SDO Calbayog City at P13.009 million, and SDO Quirino at P679,955.
State auditors recommended that DepEd offices properly plan their procurements to avoid splitting transactions, and reminded the department that they may be held accountable for “serious transgressions of the procurement rules.”
The DepEd spent over P24 million in transactions that indicated brand preferences.
In Metro Manila, DepEd’s regional office spent P2.12 million in purchases indicating “specifications tailor-made to specific brand names.” These indications were found in requests for quotations for various items, such as printers, laptops, universal power supply, projectors, and televisions.
In Ilocos Sur’s SDO and in 12 implementing units, auditors found P21.44 million worth of procurements of various communications technology and office supplies with direct references to brand names.
Other units with apparent brand preferences in their procurements included SDO Ozamis City, at P725,053, and Sumoroy and Capul Agro-Industrial School, at P143,791.
The DepEd and its smaller units agreed to strictly abide by the prohibition on referencing to specific brands in procurement processes.
Meanwhile, auditors also flagged bidder eligibility and insufficient post-qualification procedures in transactions that reached over P97 million.
The COA said that Catanduanes’ SDO did not follow the proper procedures in determining a prospective bidder’s eligibility over a P68.93-million procurement, and proceeded to award two contracts to the bidder, whose total approved budget for the contract exceeded the submitted net financial contracting capacity.
In Camarines Sur, a P16.597-million procurement for eggs went to a bidder whose single biggest completed contract did not comply with the transaction’s amount.
A similar case was found in the Cagayan Valley regional office, where a supplier with an expired registration with the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement system won a P12.05-million procurement contract.
The regional and school divisions offices committed to respond to the allegations of failure to comply with the country’s procurement law.
The COA also said that Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte failed to fully comply with procurement rules when it immediately opened satellite offices across the country. – Rappler.com