A group of government accountability advocates say recent controversies in the Department of Education’s purchases of laptops show that government mechanisms to stop corruption are “no longer enough.”
Multiply-Ed, a project that monitors education governance and spending, said that the “anomalous contracts” the DepEd entered in 2021 involving devices needed for distance learning demonstrate the need for greater transparency in the government’s procurement process, including a revamp of procurement laws.
They added that generally, current anti-corruption mechanisms are “supply dependent” or “government-led,” leaving it up to the government agency itself to determine whether it will allow the mechanisms to work.
Since it began engaging DepEd on procurement and bidding activities in 2022, the group said the department had shown relative openness to being monitored for transparency. However, there are still “critical processes and offices that are not open to monitoring,” with some information still “selectively accessible,” according to Multiply-Ed’s engagements with the agency.
DepEd faced Senate scrutiny last year for purchasing overpriced laptops, with the powerful Senate Blue Ribbon Committee recommending administrative and criminal complaints against officials who signed off on the purchase.
Multiply-Ed has also called for an urgent review of the government’s procurement laws and emphasized the need to reassess the government procurement system, including the personnel typically involved.
Filipinos are no strangers to anomalous deals in government, and perhaps that is why we are so tolerant such blatant wrongdoing. Despite low-ranking government officials being caught and held responsible every now and then, the system and the leaders that allow such controversies to flourish has somehow always managed to survive.
These are reforms and issues that government agencies like the DepEd has to face squarely as soon as possible, especially now that the wounds of the overpriced laptops scandal are still fresh. The next few months should show us whether our government officials will act quickly to prevent further anomalies from occurring, or conveniently wait for the public to forget without doing anything substantial to change system that has proven to be prone to corruption.*