Philippines fraud inquiry examines government purchase of 40,000 Celeron laptops at $1,000 each

WTF?! Imagine paying $1,042 for a laptop that isn’t a mid-range Windows model or a MacBook but one powered by Intel’s budget Celeron processor. Then imagine you bought almost 40,000 of them. That’s what The Philippines’ Department of Education did, resulting in the country’s government launching a fraud probe into how it happened and who is responsible.

The Reg writes that after schools in The Philippines closed due to Covid-19 outbreaks, the government allocated funds to purchase nearly 70,000 laptops so teachers could continue working.

But the Philippines Commission of Audit found some significant discrepancies with the purchase. The Department of Education allocated P35,046.50, or $627, for each laptop, but it ultimately agreed to pay P58,300 ($1,042) for every unit, and this was despite one bidder offering a lower price of P43,000 ($770).

Because it ended up paying more for each unit than it had budgeted for, the DoE bought just 39,583 laptops instead of the planned 68,500.

Paying just over a grand for a laptop isn’t bad if you’re buying something like the Asus Zenbook 13, one of our Best Laptop picks that can be specced with an Intel Core i7-1165G7 for just over a grand. You could also get a base model MacBook Air with the excellent M1 chip for $999—$43 less than what the machines in question cost.

Philippines fraud inquiry examines government purchase of 40,000 Celeron laptops at $1,000 each

Would you pay $1,000 for one of these?

However, the laptops bought in this case were powered by Intel’s budget Celeron CPUs. A quick look on Amazon shows an Asus laptop sporting a Celeron N4020 with a $249 price tag, and there are many others with similar processors selling even cheaper. There’s also the fact that Celeron laptops aren’t much use beyond the most basic of tasks.

Moreover, the auditor found that in 2020, the Department of Education paid $581 per unit for Dell machines running an 8th-gen Core i5 CPU.

Now, the education minister and vice president Sara Duterte has ordered the department of education to request the Commission of Audit to conduct a fraud inquiry.

“While we are not yet declaring that there is a fraudulent transaction that happened at that time, we’re also not saying that there is none,” Duterte said.

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