DepEd Valencia won’t accept controversial computers from city gov’t

VALENCIA CITY (MindaNews/08 August) – Officials of the Department of Education in Valencia City have refused to accept the 59 sets of computers and other information technology materials donated by the city government saying they did not request for such items.

But a city councilor said the refusal could also be due to the controversy created by the purchase of such items, in particular the questions raised on the amount involved in the transaction.

The city council started two weeks an investigation into the P17.783-million deal “in aid of legislation”.

The city government, however, has paid in full the so-called IT packages which carried a price tag of P299,000 each.

Mayor Jose M. Galario Jr. told DXMV Radyo Ukay Wednesday morning he found the documents complete so he signed the check for the payment.

Galario said to avoid being slapped with cases he ordered the release adding it was only ministerial for him to do so since all requirements had been complied with.

According to a copy of the disbursement voucher shown by City Councilor Oliver Owen Garcia, the check numbered 2013-07-9204 was released on July 26 to Cagayan de Oro City-based supplier Forever Books Learning Enterprises.

Garcia, a lawyer who heads the council’s committee on laws and education, said they will continue their committee hearings on the issue with the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) in the hot seat.

He said they are focusing on the mismatch between what the schools needed and what was supplied.

“That is a big question to us,” he added.

BAC officials refused to talk at the hearing yesterday, saying the city councilors should ask their chair instead, Junaida Prantilla, who was absent for an official business.

Garcia said they scheduled another hearing next week and would summon Prantilla.

The councilor said DepEd Valencia City Division said during the committee hearing last Wednesday they would not receive the donations.

He said Dr. Lanila Palapar, DepEd education program supervisor told the committee the items were not the ones they asked for.

He added the request included educational toys and books, microscopic projector and overhead projector, and IT materials and scientific laboratory equipment for elementary and secondary schools.

The materials purchased by the city government included desk top computers and educational compact discs produced by New Delhi-based Softmax Software Solutions. The CDs, at least those tried by Garcia’s staff were produced in Hindu English. One of the CDs, “English Speaking Skills” for 9- to 10-year olds use characters with Indian sounding names.

Garcia told MindaNews no massive testing for all products was scheduled because DepEd had no intention to accept it anyway.

He added that in last week’s hearing DepEd representatives cited that school principals were hesitant to accept the project because of the controversy.

Garcia noted in an earlier MindaNews interview that the amount per unit was suspect. Citing unnamed sources, however, he said the unit price may be due to some value added costs, including intellectual property rights of the materials “packaged” with the computer units.

Earlier, Ruel Duran, a supervisor at DepEd Valencia, told radio station dxDB that the 59 IT packages have been delivered already and were stored at the DepEd supply office for “safekeeping” pending the inquiry on the procurement process.

The previous city council also tackled the issue in June 2013 during which Vice Mayor Azucena Huervas said the body did not approve a resolution granting the mayor authority to enter into contract with the supplier.

She recognized, however, upon then councilor Glen Peduche’s inquiry, that the budget for DepEd’s laboratory equipment was approved as part of the P50.649-million supplemental budget approved on December 3, 2012.

But on September 24, 2012 the council passed a resolution “supporting” then mayor Leandro Jose Catarata to grant the request made by Dr. Gloria Benigno, then DepEd-10 regional director, to buy the instructional materials and equipment.

The BAC, in a memorandum for Catarata on May 8, 2013, clarified that the 59 IT packages would include 59 sets of high-end computers, 66 educational CDs and “units of computer sets equivalent to 3,894 CDs.”

DepEd’s request

The purchase was traced back to the request for funding assistance by DepEd’s Benigno to Catarata on July 31, 2012.

Benigno appraised Catarata that DepEd has no funds for a number of materials and equipment needed at the DepEd Valencia City schools division.

The BAC explained in its memorandum that the materials and equipment were needed to help teachers in bridging curriculum gaps in preparation for the new K2+12 program of DepEd.

The BAC also cited that a public bidding was conducted, adding it was not through “negotiated procurement” or “direct contracting.”

It said only two firms submitted bid proposals after the publication of the notice of bidding at the Manila Bulletin.

Forever Books Learning Enterprises won the bidding because the other proponent was disqualified for lack of credit line documents, it added. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)