House probe on ‘overpriced’ textbooks, computers sought

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014


A MILITANT lawmaker on Tuesday asked the House committee on basic education and culture to look into the alleged overpricing of computers and textbooks by the Department of Education (DepEd) during the Arroyo administration.

Kabataan Party-list Representative Terry Ridon filed House Resolution 1188 in response to a television report about the alleged overpriced contracts entered into by DepEd in 2008 to 2010 for the purchase of educational materials for various public schools in the country.

In his resolution, Ridon cited the news item that the DepEd under the leadership of then secretary Jesli Lapus transacted with three companies -- Merryland Publishing Corporation, Vicarish Publication and Trading, and Book on Wheels -- to procure computers and textbooks.

In said report, an unnamed informant said that the contracts entered by DepEd cost billions of pesos, with Merryland Publishing getting a total of P2.8 billion in educational material contracts, Vicarish Publication had P1.3 billion, and Book on Wheels had P1 billion.

Ridon said that based on the informant's testimony on the report the said publishing companies overpriced the textbooks supplied to DepEd.

While the said companies priced textbooks at around P200-P300 each, the actual cost should only be somewhere between P50 to P100 each due to the cheap materials used.

The informant also alleged that some companies also failed to deliver hundreds of millions worth of educational materials to schools, thereby further increasing their profits from the anomalous deals.

The agency also allegedly ordered overpriced personal computers from Merryland Publishing Corporation, with each computer set costing a total of P400,000.

Each unit had an Intel Pentium IV processor and Windows 98 operating system.

"The configurations of the said computer sets were already obsolete even during that time. And no person in his right mind would procure an outdated PC set for almost half a million pesos," Ridon said.

According to Philippine-based technology blog, Yugatech, the P400,000 paid for the said computer set can already buy "four 27" iMacs, three top-of-the-line gaming notebooks, two 6-core with dual GPU Mac Pro, or even a decent automobile."

Ridon, meanwhile, said that this is not the first time that Merryland Publishing Corporation got involved in a scam involving the procurement of overpriced computers.

"In fact, Merryland President Jessie Garcia is implicated in an ongoing case in the Sandiganbayan involving the alleged anomalous procurement of information technology packages by DepEd between 2002 to 2006 using the P25-million Priority Development Assistance Fund of former Bacolod congressman and incumbent Mayor Monico Puentevella," Ridon said.

Ridon said the alleged computer and textbook scam should be duly investigated to ensure that public funds will serve the interest of students and not continue to funnel into the pockets of corrupt government officials.

The DepEd on Tuesday vowed to investigate allegations of corruption from previous administration.

"There are allegations in the media about overpriced textbooks and computers procured in 2008-2010. While these alleged anomalous transactions happened in the previous administration, the current DepEd administration will investigate and, if needed, refer to the proper authorities for legal action. DepEd would like to encourage anyone with specific information and/or evidence to present these so that appropriate action may be taken," the agency said in a statement. (Sunnex)

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