Salceda wants gov’t procurement law revised so agencies can buy quality goods at lowest prices

House Ways and Means Committee chairman, Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, has pointed out the need to make vital changes in government procurement laws to allow agencies “to buy at the cheapest retail prices,” when bidders offer higher prices for the same quality of goods and services.

Salceda aired this observation after the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged several agencies which procured goods at prices that are more expensive compared to the open market.

“The problem is that even if we can find cheaper retail prices, if the sellers don’t bid or register with the government procurement site, we can’t buy from them. It doesn’t make sense as a rule,” he stressed. 

During the hearing of the House Committee on Public Accounts, COA reported that the Department of Health (DOH) spent P11.9 million for 31 units of videoconferencing equipment, or about P380,000 per unit. The equipment can be purchased at retail costs  of only P120,000 each.

“The only solution to a nonsensical rule is to change it. We should allow certain purchases to be made straight off retail. It’s doable to have an electronic service or program that filters for the cheapest available prices for the same required goods. Flights, hotels, and even groceries already have it for ordinary citizens. Why can’t the government make use of the same?” he noted.

The Albay lawmaker also sees needed changes in the computation of the absorptive capacity of an agency. Currently, he said an agency that is able to save part of its budget for a particular project is being punished “for having a low absorptive capacity and budget utilization rate.”

“Agencies which are able to meet service objectives and save taxpayer funds at the same time, should be encouraged, not punished with lower budgets the following year,” he stressed.

Salceda said the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) Procurement Service can be improved and made more transparent. The DBM-PS is tasked to purchase common-use items such as bond papers, electronics, and even flights and vehicles.

Salceda, however, said the “problem with the DBM-PS is that it has become a middleman between agencies, instead of something like a price aggregator. It buys and sells items, instead of being more like an online shopping site for government agencies.”

He suggested instead that the DBM-PS be made like an online shopping network where merchants are allowed to sell goods to government agencies.