Solon asks VP Sara to look into DepEd failure to repair schools despite P9.5-B budget

A Bicol solon is prodding Vice President and concurrent Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Sara Duterte to look into the agency’s low accomplishment rate in 2021 for its Basic Education Facilities Fund (BEFF), as flagged by the COA (Commission on Audit).

Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte (left) and Vice President Sara Duterte (Facebook, MANILA BULLETIN)

“Considering her solid record as a down-to-earth local chief executive when she was mayor of Davao City, I am sure Vice President and Secretary Inday Sara will not let this setback slide," Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte said in a statement Tuesday, Aug. 9.

Villafuerte hoped that Vice President could "put on the front burner the overdue makeover of almost 9,000 classrooms whose repair was already tucked in the BEFF’s P9.467-billion outlay in 2021".

"In alone, the DepEd failed last year to patch up more than 1,800 classrooms in Iriga City and 35 municipalities, even if the refurbishment of these facilities was already included in last year’s allocations for the BEFF and QRF (Quick Response Fund) for school repair and provision of new furniture for both students and their teachers," said Villafuerte, a former deputy speaker.

Villafuerte, the National Unity Party (NUP) vice president for political affairs, was referring to the 2021 audit report on the DepEd by the COA, which bared that only 2,689 or 23.45 percent of the 11,468 classrooms funded for repair in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) were actually fixed last year.

“It was apparently a matter of low absorptive capacity and not a funding issue,” said Villafuerte, “given that nearly 80 percent of the repair budget had been obligated to the DepEd last year.”

Citing the COA report, he said that as of Dec. 31 last year, a total of P7.483 billion or 79.04 percent of the BEFF budget had already been obligated, leaving only P1.984 or 20.96 percent of the total allocation unused.

As for the QRF, Villafuerte said 121 schools in Iriga City and 22 municipalities were supposed to have received P560.35 million from this separate fund for the repair, rehabilitation or replacement of classrooms, but none of these projects was funded last year.

He said those with the biggest number of unfunded QRF projects were Buhi, which was supposed to have gotten P105.34 million for mending classrooms in 19 schools; Iriga City, P104.5 million for 21 schools; Nabua, P95.22 million for nine schools; and Pasacao, P15.71 million for nine schools. The capital of Pili did not get its P3.96 million QRF allocation for the repair of classrooms in one school.

COA’s audit report also revealed that none of the targeted 553,338 pieces of furniture—individual tables and chairs for elementary and high school students as well as tables and chairs for their teachers—to be distributed to various public schools was procured in 2021.

The state auditor said in its 2021 report that: “The above low accomplishment rate showed that the BEFF program’s target of providing school furniture, repairs and rehabilitation of classrooms and electrification were not fully achieved.”

In its recommendation, the COA told the DepEd to “observe strict monitoring and supervision of the overall program implementation to ensure its timely completion and delivery to the intended recipient schools".