Procurement agency promises reforms amid call for abolition

THE Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said it will overhaul its processes amid calls to abolish the office following the alleged overpricing of laptop computers acquired for the Department of Education (DepEd).

“Procurement transformation… need not be too technical and convoluted. We will go back to the basics and execute them well to strengthen our foundation, and implement the doable,” Procurement Service Executive Director Dennis S. Santiago said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mr. Santiago said the reforms being contemplated include a focus on common-use supplies and equipment, rather than materials needed specifically by individual agencies; more realistic price canvassing; and improved supply chain management.

He also proposed greater use of electronic procurement platforms, capacity building, compliance with “green” principles in public procurement, and supplier partnerships.

“I fully understand the sentiment of some groups and even by our own esteemed and honorable legislators. We know where they are coming from as we share their clamor for zero tolerance against irregularities in government,” Mr. Santiago said.

“But, with all due respect, I think we need to strike a careful balance. I believe the calls must be tempered with the understanding that (the Procurement Service), along with its many dedicated and well-meaning employees, has ably served government for many decades,” he added.

The Procurement Service, whose primary task is to centralize procurement of common office supplies and equipment for government agencies, was flaged by the Commission on Audit (CoA) found irregularities in the purchase of laptops for public school teachers and medical supplies for the pandemic response.

The CoA report questioned the agency’s purchase of P2.4 billion worth of outdated laptops for the DepEd. Another audit report flagged P1.39 billion worth of personal protective equipment procured by the service for the Department of Health.

On Aug. 16, the Procurement Service suspended the procurement of non-common use supplies and equipment (NCSE) until further notice, and is currently focusing on common-use supplies and equipment (CSE).

“During the suspension, the Procurement Service shall not accept new requests for non-CSE procurement until further notice,” Mr. Santiago said.

Mr. Santiago said he plans to return to the Treasury over P3 billion worth of high-yield investments held with government banks, which was flagged by CoA as unauthorized.

“The amount of P3 billion is intact, and I am for the return of the money to the national treasury soon as we have properly clarified the nature of the funds with CoA,” he said.

In a management letter, CoA ordered the agency to “immediately remit the balance of the savings” to the Treasury.

CoA said the agency’s failure to return the money to the general fund of the Bureau of Treasury is in violation of Executive Order No. 431.

Mr. Santiago also said he supports Budget Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman’s earlier call to give the Procurement Service a chance, adding that officials should allow the new administration to reform the agency.  

“We already have programs on how to fix (the Procurement Service) if you (would only) give us a chance,” Ms. Pangandaman said during the Development Budget Coordination Committee’s briefing for the House Committee on Appropriations on Friday. — Keisha B. Ta-asan