By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
A teachers’ federation on Friday slammed the Department of Education (DepEd) and demanded for “accountability” for the alleged “imprudent” utilization of education funds based on the report released by the Commission on Audit (CoA).
The Alliance of Concerned (ACT) said that the DepEd should be made accountable for the “various irregularities” found by CoA in the agency’s fund management. “For every peso that the DepEd expends irresponsibly, there are students and teachers who bear the brunt of this imprudence,” said ACT Chairperson Joselyn Martinez. “This is plainly unacceptable and those responsible should be held liable for this,” she added.
Citing earlier reports, COA findings showed that the DepEd has P13.9 billion of expenses that were “illegal or lack adequate documentation”; P15.4 Billion unused allotment for unimplemented projects; P2.7 Billion un-liquidated cash advances; P254 million worth of questionable textbook contracts, P113.7 million worth of undistributed books and P1.25 million payment of voucher to “ghost” beneficiaries.
For ACT, the recent CoA findings on the supposed “misused” DepEd funds could demoralize the teachers. “Every day, we scrimp on our own meager salaries to fill in the various shortages in our schools only to find out that such scandalous amounts of public education funds were being wasted without accountability,” Martinez said.
DepEd’s alleged “misspending,” Martinez added, also brings “bitterness” among teachers as they recalled how DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones “lectured” teachers on financial literacy when “we clamor for salary increase amidst our debt-stricken situation.”
“We have always been told that there are not enough funds—for classrooms, for books, for materials, for pay hike—and that we have to be forbearing and resourceful [but] the COA report now shows the hypocrisy in our situation,” Martinez lamented.
Meanwhile, the DepEd on Friday reiterated that it “will revisit” the existing guidelines on the procurement of instructional materials and “will evaluate” the controls on buffer stocks.
DepEd Undersecretary and Spokesperson Annalyn Sevilla, in a statement, reiterated the agency’s response as cited in the same CoA report. “The DepEd Management assured that they will revisit the existing DepEd guidelines on the procurement of instructional materials and will evaluate the controls on buffer stocks,” she said. “Regarding the large number of learning materials procured, they already allocated the materials and there is already an approved Activity Request (AR) and is in the process of releasing the buffer materials to the lower units,” she added.
In a report in June 2018, CoA also reported that there were P25.2-million worth of learning materials (LMs) undistributed to public schools because these were found damaged in the publisher’s warehouse. In its report, state auditors urged DepEd to “penalize officers over millions of pesos worth of textbooks that were either damaged by water or left undistributed.”
In August of last year, the DepEd has also committed to “conduct further investigation” following said report and assured that it continues “to coordinate with the COA on developments and remains steadfast to its commitment to uphold transparency and accountability in all its transactions and in the responsible delivery of basic education resources and services.”
Meanwhile, the ACT also criticized DepEd for failing to provide enough textbooks in the public schools. In the last six years, the group alleged that there was a lack of textbooks for various subjects in nearly all year levels under the K to 12 curriculum. “This dismal state of public education speaks of the state’s neglect,” ACT said.
With the recent CoA report on undistributed learning materials, ACT once again highlighted the “government’s lack of preparation to implement” the K to 12 program. ACT noted that shortages on textbooks and other learning materials continue to “force teachers to take on more work by individually looking for their own materials based on DepEd’s curriculum guide that they will then purchase and reproduce at their own expense despite meager salaries.”
For ACT, DepEd’s “neglect is reprehensible” as it continues to promote the agency’s efforts to shift from access to quality education “while failing to deliver the most basic resources in schools.”
Meanwhile, Martinez noted that COA’s string of reports of irregularities in fund use not only in DepEd but also of many government agencies such as the Department of Health (DOH), Philhealth, Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) – among others – “only show that the government has the resources to grant substantial pay hike and improve the delivery of basic services to the people.”
Given the “lengthy talk” of President Duterte in his last SONA against corruption, ACT challenged him to “correct the mis-prioritizations of his administration and cleanse the bureaucracy.” For the group, this is the “only way” that he can deliver his promise to “uplift the lives of the people.”