By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) welcomed the inquiry that the Senate and the House of Representatives plan to conduct regarding the alleged “irregularities” in its budget as cited by the Commission on Audit (COA) and expressed its intent to further strengthen its financial management systems.
“We will appreciate a public process to respond to the issues raised in the COA report,” DepEd said in a statement amid the controversies that hound the agency’s expenditure as cited in the 2018 COA report.
Earlier, Senate Committee on Basic Education Chair Senator Sherwin Gatchalian and the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) called for an inquiry on DepEd. This after the COA’s report cited some irregularities and anomalies in its budget.
In particular, state auditors reported the error-filled learning materials for grade 3 pupils worth P254 million as well as “alarming number” of learning materials procured as buffer stock from 2014 to 2017 worth P113 million which left undistributed and were stored in warehouses for years. COA also flagged the “extravagant” spending of DepEd on its trainings which were allegedly held “lavish resorts and tourist spot locations” worth P316.62 million.
Meanwhile, DepEd reiterated that it “had already addressed” the CoA’s observations. As early as March 2019, DepEd said that it “has already been working” with the COA and “submitted its responses” to the Audit Observation Memorandum (AOM) on the alleged undistributed textbooks as well as delay in construction of classrooms – among others.
DepEd maintained that the “exit conferences and audit engagements” with the CoA have “been very positive and reassuring.” As a result, the agency noted of “new policies” instituted to help ensure that the CoA’s findings will not happen again. DepEd also noted that it is in the “process of updating, simplifying, and codifying its internal rules as part of its financial reform efforts.”
Likewise, DepEd maintained that the COA observations — which were issued to the Department as AOMs — are all “subject to explanation and justification by the agency concerned.” DepEd noted that “audit observations are different from notice of suspension and notice of disallowance” wherein Notice of Suspension “signifies suspending payment or disbursement until the agency justifies or complies with COA requirements” while Notice of Disallowance “requires an agency to refund/return payment.”
Given all these, DepEd assured the public and its stakeholders that it “had already addressed” COA’s observations and that it is determined to continuously improve its systems and processes as part of the reforms initiated under the leadership of Education Secretary Leonor Briones.