Youth group calls for amendments to procurement law

MultiplY-Ed’s National AccountabiliTeam at the DepEd Central Office compound after observing a pre-bid conference of an ICT item

Amidst reports of anomalous contracts in the Department of Education (DepEd) that the government entered under the Duterte administration, Multiply-Ed calls for strengthened transparency, participation, and accountability in education governance and the amendment of the Government Procurement Reform Act (GPRA).

Multiply-Ed, a youth-led, multi-sectoral, and multi-level accountability initiative on education, has started engaging the Education Department’s procurement activities in 2022.

The goal is to help strengthen transparency and accountability in DepEd procurements. The Department of Education, under the new administration, has shown relative openness to X-Ed monitoring of its biddings likely to prevent another controversial procurement from happening.

X-Ed has so far observed several bidding activities covering contracts on goods and services crucial to learning continuity and learning recovery which X-Ed is monitoring. 33% or 7 out of 21 target offices responded to X-Ed’s request to monitor their procurement activities, 4 of which were under DepEd.

Based on its initial engagement of DepEd procurement, MultiplY-Ed notes that there remain critical processes and offices that are not open to monitoring and information is selectively accessible.

In all the 11 procurement items monitored, X-Ed was only able to observe until the opening of bids, and the monitors were not given any additional information regarding the awarding of the contract and implementation afterward.

Furthermore, it requires a lot of capacity-building and resources for civil society to conduct monitoring given the government’s selective transparency and obscure commitments.

The recent anomalous contracts demonstrate that the transparency, participation, and accountability mechanisms in government procurement are no longer enough to stop corruption.

For one, it is “supply-dependent” or government-led, i.e., depending on whether the government would allow those TPA mechanisms to work.

The alleged anomalous contracts involving the procurement of laptops are unfortunate because based on MultiplY-Ed’s monitoring covering 53 schools in 10 divisions, laptops were badly needed during distance learning, and there were many students and teachers who did not have them.

To note, 17% of the student respondents, 22% of teacher respondents, and 17% of parent respondents noted a lack of access to learning resources, including gadgets needed for distance learning.

The CSO coalition in the MultiplY-Ed Project composed of the Center for Youth Advocacy and Networking, Government Watch, Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, and Bukluran UP System calls for the urgent review and assessment of the GPRA for much-needed amendments.

The proponents also emphasize the need to revisit the procurement system, including the personnel involved to strengthen public procurement integrity and effectiveness.

Finally, X-Ed calls on the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) to reclaim its role of protecting and ensuring that the reforms in procurement prevent corruption and ensure timely delivery of quality public services and goods that benefit ordinary citizens.