By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Thursday hit the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for failing to fully utilize its budget for various education programs in 2018.
“I will not be harsh and give CHED a failing grade of 5 in Fund Utilization 101. I would give it an ‘Incomplete’, with a last chance stern warning that it implements remedial measures this year,” Recto said.
The Senate leader issued the statement after the Commission on Audit (COA) reported that the CHED spent only 50.77 percent of its P44.75-billion of total budget for education programs last year.
In its 2018 annual audit report for CHED, the COA found that the agency only used P22.72 billion of the total allotment to implement its projects, which included the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education.
State auditors said only P19.6 million was utilized out of the P39.9 million allotments for the implementation of the law granting free college education in state universities.
The low utilization was blamed to the delay in the approval of the implementing guidelines and non-submission of billing statements, among others.
But Recto said the agency cannot use the “birth pains” of the free college education law as an excuse since the law was enacted in 2017. “The one year grace period is enough for it to learn the lessons from this fiasco,” he said.
“If the decision-making by CHED is hampered by the absenteeism of Cabinet members in its board, their alternates must be granted the authority to vote on their behalf,” he added.
He also urged the agency to enumerate the colleges and universities which had failed to liquidate funds so that they can explain their deficiencies when the Senate takes up their proposed 2020 budget.
Recto said he expects the CHED to get its act together and keep up with its obligations.
“Kung yung January-June report card nila sa pag-gasta ay mababa pa rin, singko na ang grado nila (If their January-June report card in spending is still low, then I must give them a failing grade),” he said.
“This must be fixed, because in this case, funding delayed is education denied to our youth,” he appealed.