Dep't of Budget and Management

Unclear role, string of anomalous deals make PS-DBM irrelevant – senator

Michelle Abad
Unclear role, string of anomalous deals make PS-DBM irrelevant – senator

MINORITY LEADER. Senate Minority Leader Aquilino 'Koko' Pimentel III opposes the holding of an executive session by the Blue Ribbon Committee to decide whether or not to subpoena Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez to testify in the investigation on the sugar fiasco in a hearing on September 6, 2022.

Voltaire F. Domingo/Senate PRIB

Many government agencies already have bids and awards committees that allow them to procure supplies, says Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel

MANILA, Philippines – Why does the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) still exist when different national agencies already have their own ways of procuring their needs?

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III posed this question on Wednesday, November 9, during the Senate plenary deliberations on the DBM’s proposed budget for next year. The Senate started its marathon debates on the 2023 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) Wednesday.

The Senate minority leader asked Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, the sponsor of the GAB, if the PS-DBM was still needed, considering many government agencies already had bids and awards committees that allowed them to procure supplies, whether common-use or non-common use.

The PS-DBM has been embroiled in controversies since the administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte, such as the Pharmally scandal and the procurement of “outdated” laptops for the Department of Education (DepEd).

Pimentel asked what reforms the DBM made following these controversies.

Angara replied that the PS-DBM suspended the procurement of non-common-use supplies and equipment, since the “reason for existence” of the PS-DBM is to purchase and attain savings only for common-use items.

“[But] if we suspend the procurement of non-common-use and expand the definition of common use, butas pa rin (there is still a loophole),” said Pimentel, referring to how the PS-DBM had expanded the range of supplies it could purchase on behalf of other agencies.

“I agree with you, your honor. Truly a [Bar] topnotcher would come up with the possible loopholes. So we’ll make sure that the definition of common-use must adhere to common sense,” replied Angara.

The PS-DBM has become a buzz word since the Pharmally scandal broke in 2021, as many of the contracts it signed had been anomalous. For instance, it bought from Pharmally Pharmaceutical, which had ties to the Duterte’s close allies, test kits worth P1,720 per unit, which were almost twice the price of the original manufacturer.

The PS-DBM made headlines again in August 2022 following its procurement of P2.4 billion worth of “overpriced and outdated” laptops for the DepEd’s. The education department bought almost 39,600 laptops with Intel Celeron processors – among the cheapest in the market – for P58,300 each from the PS-DBM. This was not even enough for half of the 68,500 teacher-beneficiaries of the laptops.

PS-DBM Executive Director Dennis Santiago had said his agency planned to conduct a “thorough examination” of the cost and technical specifications of the laptops procured during the Duterte administration. –

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers overseas Filipinos, the rights of women and children, and local governments.