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Deped Flagged Over ‘Deficiencies’ In P8-Billion Distance Learning Funds

Deped Flagged Over ‘Deficiencies’ In P8-Billion Distance Learning Funds
Teachers and property custodians at Geronimo Santiago Elementary School in Manila sort out on July 21, 2020 self-learning modules that will be distributed to students of the city as part of the Department of Education’s Learning Continuity Plan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by KJ Rosales, The Philippine STAR

The Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged the Department of Education (DepEd) over “several deficiencies” in the use of its COVID funds amounting to P8.137 billion for the implementation of the Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP) for school year 2020-2021.

In its 2020 annual audit report on the DepEd released over the weekend, the COA noted that of the P16.105-billion funds allocated to the agency, P11.965 billion were downloaded to its regional offices as of yearend.

The COA, however, said the use of P8.137-billion downloaded amounts was marked by the non-submission of contracts, purchase orders and other supporting documents, delayed procurement and delivery of self-learning modules, flawed and incomplete SLMs and undisbursed funds.

The funds for BE-LCP, also referred to as the distance learning program, were allocated under Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Bayanihan 1) and RA 1494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2).

The BE-LCP involves the conduct of online classes and use of SLMs as alternative learning materials to ensure the continued provision of basic education to elementary and high school students without the traditional face-to-face classes due to the threats of the coronavirus.

The COA, however, said the DepEd’s lapses affected the realization of the program’s objectives.

For one, the COA said the deliveries of SLMs with a total contract price of P676.255 million were either delayed or were not yet completed as of Dec. 31, 2020.

The COA attributed the delays to “deficient planning, poor monitoring of deliveries, suppliers’ failure to complete or provide the needed requirements within the agreed term and delayed transmittal of final soft copy of modules for printing.”

“Considering the urgency and importance of the printed materials, the incomplete/non-availability of modules on the period in which it is supposed to be used deprived the learners of better learning opportunity and hampers the continuity of the learning process of students during this time of pandemic contrary to the program’s objective,” the COA said.

The audit body added that P90.228 million worth of delivered SLMs did not adhere to the technical specifications of DepEd “which resulted in poor printing quality and affected the read-ability of the contents of SLMs.”

It said factual, typographical, grammatical/syntax and computation errors and unclear instructions were also observed in several SLMs, particularly those delivered to various schools in the National Capital Region, Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and Region 3 (Central Luzon).

“In effect, the existence of errors and deficiencies in the SLMs was an indication of the deficient planning on the preparation of SLMs and procedural lapses in the checking/review and evaluation process/system of the division provided under DepEd Memorandum 82 s. 2017, thus adversely affecting the quality of the SLMs and the department’s objective of ensuring quality basic education,” the COA said.

The audit body said fund disbursements, procurements and other transactions totaling P4.009 billion for the BE-LCP implementation were also “doubtful” due to the non-submission of perfected contracts, purchase orders and other supporting documents and non-adherence to procurement procedures under RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Furthermore, funds amounting to P396. 29 million were not utilized by seven regional offices (CAR, Regions 1, 4-B, 5, 6, 7 and 9) as of yearend due to the delayed issuance of sub-allotment release orders (Sub-AROs) and delays in the procurement process, COA said.

Six regional offices (NCR and Regions 3, 6,7, 8 and 13) were also flagged for deficiencies in the use of their respective BE-LCP funds totaling P518.883 million, such as lack of basis for cash advances, unaccounted and unsupported fund transfers, improper distribution of devices and “non- integration of modular learning with other modalities.”

‘DepEd passes COA review’

Meanwhile, the DepEd said it has passed the COA review of its spending and use of 2020 budget allocations of almost P538 billion despite the various adjustments made to roll out its remote learning program last year at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Sunday, Aug. 15, the DepEd thanked the COA team that conducted the audit of its financial and operational accounts covering 45,000 public schools, 214 school division offices and 16 regional offices, but excluded the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the DepEd central office in Pasig City.

In its audit, COA only saw some P15.5 billion in funds that needs adjustments, almost P10 billion less from the previous year’s P25 billion, the DepEd said.

“Only 2.88 percent or P15.5 billion of that (P537.85 billion DepEd funds for 2020) is due for adjustment entries, submission of supporting documents, reconciliations and others,” Annalyn Sevilla, DepEd undersecretary for finance, told The Philippine STAR.

“This is a great improvement from last year’s findings of COA, which was at P25 billion,” she said. – With Rainier Allan Ronda