‘Misleading’: CHED calls out COA, media over ‘inaccurate’ reports on low utilization rate

Published July 14, 2021, 5:58 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on Wednesday, July 14, called out the Commission on Audit (COA) as well as other media reports pointing out its “low utilization rate” of the Bayanihan 2 funds.

CHED Chairperson Popoy De Vera (Photo from CHED)

“The media reports, and for that matter the COA Report, are inaccurate, misleading and fail to take into account the passage of RA 11519 on 29 December 2020 extending the use of the Bayanihan 2 funds until 30 June 2021,” CHED Chairman Popoy De Vera said.

CHED also called the attention of newspaper reports saying that the Commission allegedly had a low utilization rate of only 40.61% of the P3.3 billion allocation under the Bayanihan 2 law based on a COA report.

De Vera pointed out that the COA report on the status of utilization covers the period ending Dec. 31, 2020. “The media and COA Report also fail to consider the chronological release of funds, requirements for fund release, and implementation of CHED activities after the passage of the Bayanihan 2 law,” he added.

99% of CHED’s Bayanihan 2 funds utilized

Contrary to the reports, De Vera maintained that CHED was able to utilize 99% of its Bayanihan 2 funds by June 30, 2021.

De Vera said that RA 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act which was enacted on Sept. 11 2020 appropriated P300 million for education subsidy to eligible students and P3 billion for grants to State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) for their Smart Campus Development projects.

“CHED named the education subsidy as Bayanihan 2 for Higher Education Tulong Program (B2HELP) which provided qualified students P5,000 each to be credited to their respective outstanding balances or accounts if they were enrolled in private higher education institutions (HEIs) or to be used for their online learning expenses if studying in public HEIs,” De Vera said.

Additionally, CHED also requested the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) and Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA) for the P300 million from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Nov. 17 2020.

The DBM, De Vera said, released the fund to CHED on Dec. 1, 2020 and the funds were obligated by Dec. 31 2020.

As of June 30, 2021, De Vera said that “60,782 students have benefitted from this program” and that CHED has already disbursed P297,540,319.39 of the B2HELP funds “resulting in a 99% utilization rate.” De Vera explained that Smart Campus Development Program was composed of two components: acquisition of laptop computers for distribution to SUC faculty and grants for Smart Campus project proposals of State Universities and Colleges (SUCs).

The P1.04 billion, he said, was allocated for the first component while P1.96 billion was allocated for the second component.

For the laptop computers for SUC faculty, De Vera said that CHED requested the SARO and NCA for P1 billion on Nov. 17 2020. This, he added, was released by DBM on Dec. 10, 2020 and was subsequently transferred by CHED to DBM-Procurement Service for the procurement of 20,000 units of laptop computers.

De Vera explained that the CHED Smart Campus Development Project provided grants of a maximum of P25 million each to SUC for their project proposals designed to improve the implementation of flexible learning such as upgrading of internet connectivity, campus area network, learning management system, learner information system, smart classrooms, computer center for students, or multi-media center for faculty.

“These project proposals are submitted and approved by the SUC Board of Regents prior to submission to the CHED for evaluation and approval,” De Vera said. “The SUCs were also required to submit sustainability plans for their projects so that initial investment of the national government in the Smart Campus Development would not go to waste,” he added.

De Vera explained that the funds for the Smart Campus projects were “requested and are downloaded” by DBM to CHED only upon the completion of the whole vetting and approval process as the list of approved SUC projects and the amount allocated for each project in its request for the NCA.

CHED received a total of 238 proposals from 111 SUCs and a thorough vetting process was conducted by a panel of experts from December 2020 to June 2021. “Out of the 111 SUCs with project proposals, only 89 were found eligible for funding from the Bayanihan 2 fund,” De Vera explained.

Meanwhile, De Vera said starting June 7, 2021, the CHED requested DBM for NCA for the approved SUC proposals and as of June 30, 2021, “CHED obligated P2,998,844,375.78 and disbursed P2,958,430,405.77” – resulting in 99% utilization rate.

De Vera said that it was “unfortunate” that the COA Report did not clarify that the utilization of the Bayanihan 2 funds have been extended to June 30, 2021 and “finds fault in government agencies who are authorized to use the funds for six (6) more months.”

The COA Report, De Vera added, also failed to mention that the Bayanihan 2 law is a special law enacted only in the 3rd quarter of 2020 and it is “therefore inconceivable to expect CHED to receive, vet, and approve submitted project proposals; request the funds from DBM; and release the funds to SUCs within a three month period.”

Overall, De Vera said that the actions done by CHED are “consistent with the requirements for prudent budget release, prompt budget execution, and strict accountability in the use of public funds.”

De Vera also stressed that from the chronology of events and fund releases by the DBM, CHED was able to obligate and disburse PP3,255,970,725.16 of its P3.3 billion Bayanihan 2 funds as provided for in RA 11494 and RA 11519 resulting in an overall utilization rate of 99%.