CHED execs face probe over P1.2-B scholarship fund
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - January 14, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) failed to disburse more than P1.2 billion in its college scholarship fund in 2014 and is now facing an investigation by a congressional committee.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said the House committee on higher education, of which he is a member, is set to summon concerned CHED officials to explain the irregularities in a motu propio hearing next week.

The probe was prompted by a Commission on Audit (COA) report on CHED’s failure to release the amount under the student financial assistance program (Stufap).

“While many of our students and their families go to extreme lengths just to pay matriculation, here is CHED – awash in government funds yet unable to properly perform its mandate,” Ridon said.

“Congress needs to see whether there has been gross negligence committed by CHED officials that resulted in this deplorable situation,” Ridon said.

“This is important, as the Stufap remains to be one of the highly funded programs of the said commission,” he pointed out.

In its 2014 annual audit report released this week, COA noted that out of the P5.2 billion appropriated in 2014 for college scholarships, grants-in-aid and study-now, pay-later loans, about P1.23 billion remained unspent due to the CHED’s low absorptive capacity.

COA also noted several irregularities in the disbursement of the scholarship fund, including unliquidated cash advances, ineffective monitoring and other operational lapses that resulted in “internal control weaknesses in the processing and releasing of claims.”

CHED’s Stufap includes scholarships ranging from P15,000 to P30,000 per academic year, grants-in-aid and study-now, pay later loans.

The lawmaker said he would file a similar resolution this week to investigate the reported P3.13-billion unliquidated fund received by CHED through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

The audit body, in its report, also noted “inadequate monitoring mechanisms and enforcement of the liquidation/refund thereof from recipient SUCs.”

COA said such funds were meant to upgrade infrastructure in state universities and colleges, and fund grants-in-aid programs and researches.

“Where did these funds go? Why have these funds remain unliquidated? Clearly, there is something fishy going on. Congress needs to look into this matter, and see whether criminal acts – even corruption—have transpired,” the lawmakers said.

“We are particularly concerned since these monies come from the controversial DAP,” Ridon said.

Deception

CHED’s failure to release the scholarship fund “highlights the deception of the Aquino government in repeatedly boasting that it has increasingly expanded spending on education… but in reality, the budget it has allotted failed to reach those students who need it the most because of inefficiency and shady practices in the bureaucracy,” said Vin Buenaagua, national coordinator of Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan.

CHED has yet to comment on the COA report, although it earlier informed state auditors that it would conduct its own investigation into the supposed violation of existing guidelines for the release of student financial assistance.

Meanwhile, the University of the Philippines and its attached institutions like the Philippine General Hospital will receive an allocation of P11.8 billion in this year’s budget, or about P1 billion higher than what was proposed by the national government. – With Janvic Mateo

ACIRC CHED DISBURSEMENT ACCELERATION PROGRAM HIGHER EDUCATION PHILIPPINE GENERAL HOSPITAL PROGRESIBONG KABATAAN RIDON STUFAP TERRY RIDON UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES VIN BUENAAGUA
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