The Department of Education (DepEd) on Wednesday was told by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto to reform, if not revamp, its procurement process, which, the lawmaker said, delays the delivery of equipment and books badly needed by public-school teachers and students.
“The present DepEd leadership assumed into office to a huge avalanche of unspent funds. Prior to her [Education Secretary Leonor M. Briones] assumption, we were regularly regaled with reports on how many classrooms were built, the millions of books bought, the tens of thousands of teachers hired, but it later turned out that there was even zero procurement in these areas,” Recto said in a news statement.
Recto took a swipe at the past DepEd leadership, saying it has passed on “a culture of underspending and a broken system of procurement” to Briones. He said the failed procurement process of the DepEd has caused numerous delays in the delivery of equipment and books.
For instance, Recto claimed none of the 86,641 lots of science and mathematics equipment supposed to be delivered from 2014 to 2016 were bought. He said the sets of equipment were nonexistent in any of the 75,182 public schools identified by the DepEd as recipients.
On the other hand, the senator reported only 84.9 million books were bought in 2015 and 2016, well below the targeted 179.6 million books for procurement.
“The same goes for the chairs: It’s a failing grade for the DepEd. The total number of funded chairs was 1.323 million in 2015, but only 364,670 chairs were bought,” Recto said.
“The said debacle was repeated in 2016. Of the programmed 45,898 furniture sets to be acquired that year, not one was bought,” Recto added.
However, what Recto lamented most was the “pileup” in classrooms, beginning from the 84,000 backlog in 2015 and 22,000 in 2016. “Then there’s the goal of 47,000 this year. All these are already delayed in delivery,” the senator said.
Recto told the DepEd leadership it will be difficult to roll out general appropriations-funded projects with all the backlog it has to address.
“That’s the result of creating a list for purchase based only on mathematical formula without checking the realities on the ground. When computations by central offices are done table top and without validation, the outcome would be a hitch,” Recto said.
Recto told Briones “not to be fazed by these challenges” and to focus on outlining and implementing measures that would remove procurement blockages and erase the backlog on books and equipment. “In fairness to the DepEd, there are procurement and auditing law and regulations, [including] planning protocols, that need to be changed or liberalized in order to speed up the delivery of resources,” the senator said.