Overpriced Laptop Scandal: Ombudsman Suspends DepEd and PS-DBM Officials
In a significant development, the Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the suspension of several current and former officials from the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM). The suspension comes in light of their alleged involvement in the procurement of overpriced laptops, raising questions about the integrity and efficiency of government spending.
Key Officials Suspended
The following officials have been suspended for a period of six months without pay:
- DepEd Finance Division head Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla
- Former DepEd Administration and Procurement head Undersecretary Alain del Pascua
- Former PS-DBM head and DBM Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao
- DepEd Assistant Secretary Salvador Malana III
- DepEd Director Abram Abanil
- Former PS-DBM officer-in-charge Jasonmer Uayan
- PS-DBM Procurement Management Officer IV Ulysses Mora
- PS-DBM Procurement Management Officer I Marwan Amil
- DepEd Executive Assistant IV Alec Ladanga
- DepEd Director IV Marcelo Bragado
- DepEd Supervising Administrative Officer Selwyn Briones
- PS-DBM Procurement Management Officer V Paul Armand Estrada
All of these officials were the subject of complaints filed by Senate blue ribbon committee chairperson Senator Francis Tolentino. A series of congressional hearings were held to investigate the matter further.
The COA Report
The Commission on Audit (COA) released a report in 2021 stating that DepEd had purchased laptops with low-end Intel Celeron processors at a cost of P58,300 each, despite an initial Agency Procurement Request (APR) of P35,046.50. COA noted that P2.4 billion was approved for purchasing laptops for online teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the commission stated that “the economy and efficiency in the procurement of laptop computers” were not guaranteed.
Charges Against the Officials
According to the Ombudsman’s order, there are sufficient grounds to suspend the officials. The charges against them include grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, and gross neglect of duty. There is strong evidence showing their guilt, which may lead to their removal from office.
Interestingly, the Ombudsman also ordered the filing of graft charges against Lloyd Christopher Lao and other PS-DBM officials for their involvement in a different case. This case pertains to the alleged overpriced personal protective equipment (PPEs) purchased from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The suspension of these officials by the Ombudsman is a significant step in ensuring accountability and transparency in government procurement processes. It serves as a warning to other officials that misconduct will not be tolerated, especially when it involves the misuse of public funds.