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Guam Department of Education purchased more laptops than needed

Updated: Mar 5

OPA questions $24.6 million in wasteful spending related to excessive purchases



By Pacific Island Times News Staff

 

The Office of Public Accountability took the Guam Department of Education to task for apparently wasting federal funds by purchasing an excessive number of laptops, several of which were lying around unused.


The department purchased 34,503 laptops worth $24.6 million in fiscal years 2021 and 2022 in addition to 14,285 functioning units it had in inventory before the new acquisitions.

 

“For GDOE public school use, GDOE purchased 29,531 or 2,034 more laptops than its 27,497 student population (school year 2020- 2021)," according to the Office of Public Accountability. "If the existing laptops are to be considered 

in the laptop requisitions, there appears to be an excess purchase of 16,319 laptops for public school use."


The department also purchased 4,970 new laptops for private schools, charter

 schools and other support departments in addition to the existing inventory

of 2,817 for these groups.


The OPA, however, was unable to calculate the potential excess for this segment of the purchases due to the unavailability of the count of ultimate end users.


Unopened boxes of laptops were found in the GDOE storage room. Photo courtesy of OPA.

Although these federally funded purchases were approved by third-party fiduciary agents, the OPA questioned “the excess of laptops purchased over the recorded student population.”


The department currently has a total of 51,603 available laptops including those that remained unopened since the purchase.


“During a visit with the GDOE Internal Audit Office in November 2022, we were shown the storage room at GDOE headquarters with an estimated 1,200 laptops still in their original boxes. These laptops are those assigned to the Curriculum and  Instructional  Office. In the MUNIS inventory records, 1,497 laptops were distributed to the Curriculum and Instruction office, with an existing inventory of 80,” the OPA said.


Although the majority of the laptops were delivered to C&I in June 2021, they were found languishing in storage on Nov. 18, 2022, and again on Feb. 14, 2023, according to the OPA report.


The laptops were acquired during the Covid-19 pandemic when schools adopted distance learning.


“Non-distribution of these laptops signifies that the laptops were not urgently 

needed, thus a questionable determination of ultimate end-users' need," the OPA said.


During site visits to 10 schools in May 2023, the auditors found five schools with unused laptops still in boxes. "The number of laptops in their original boxes ranged from 14 to 66,” the OPA report said.


“The non-distribution of these laptops indicates a flaw in the internal control in planning requisitions and distributions. It reflects ineffectiveness in determining the need for the laptops and the timeliness of their distribution,” it added.


Besides the excessive purchases, the OPA raised a red flag on noncompliance with procurement regulations.

 

The OPA questioned the cost of $23.1 million for laptops that were purchased from a vendor without a contract.

 

Auditors also detected an anomaly in another set of purchases for 1,693 laptops worth $1.5 million. These units were procured through “small purchases covered by 45 purchase orders, which appeared to be artificially divided.”


“Although the purchases were federally funded by U.S. Department of Education grants, the non-adherence to the required procurement processes and internal control deficiencies could potentially result in waste and abuse of funds,” OPA said.


Public Auditor Benjamin J.F. Cruz noted that the Guam procurement law along with GDOE’s standard operating procedures should guide the procurement of goods and services to ensure that public resources are used wisely,


"As a significant amount of federal funds was used to purchase these laptops, GDOE needs to institute corrective measures to prevent more recurrences and ensure efficient use of local and federal resources," Cruz said.




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