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COA flags DICT over undistributed laptops, tablets worth P93 million

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
COA flags DICT over undistributed laptops, tablets worth P93 million
he photo of the Commission on Audit's office in Quezon City taken on Aug. 17, 2021.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) for failing to immediately distribute almost P93 million worth of laptops and tablets that it procured last year.

In its audit report, COA said 866 laptops and 12,482 tablets procured under the agency’s Cybersafe Learning for Education (CLE) Phase 2 remained undistributed for four to 17 months after their procurement.

The gadgets were part of the 10,250 laptops and 41,500 tablets procured by the agency to support the implementation of distance learning during the pandemic.

State auditors noted that DICT failed to identify beneficiaries for the project prior to acquisition of the gadgets, resulting in the oversupply and overstocking. Each laptop cost P32,200, while the tablets were either priced at P4,950 or P5,400 per unit, with total cost of undistributed gadgets at P92,967,800.

The COA also noted that documents necessary in the distribution or transfer of the devices were not submitted for verification and confirmation that the target beneficiaries received the units.

“To date, the department has not submitted yet its monitoring and status of deployed ICT devices, necessary for post-evaluation of the CLE program, in order to assess the effectiveness, impact and relevance of the project,” read the report.

It recommended to the DICT to require its chief accountant and property officer to submit the property documents; strengthen the information drive about the availability of the device and coordinate with the Department of Education to identify possible beneficiaries and request for a copy of the distribution list of direct beneficiaries from agencies or organizations that received the laptop.

In its response, the DICT committed to strengthen its information drive about the project and submitted a list of beneficiaries from 40 of 105 agencies and organizations that received the devices.

The remaining organizations are still consolidating their documents, the DICT said.

Loan program

Sen. Lito Lapid is pushing for the passage of a bill that will establish a loan program for college students to provide for their living expenses.

Lapid filed Senate Bill 274 that seeks to establish the College Living Expenses Financing program to support higher studies of Filipino students with good academic standing.

The bill mandates the national government to set up a loan guarantee fund on student loans to be provided by the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Land Bank of the Philippines.

The student loans would cover board and lodging; living allowance; transportation; food, uniforms and personal clothing, books and supplies, internet and digital connectivity and other miscellaneous expenses.

“There are still many who find it difficult to go to college because they have no source of funds for their living expenses and this is felt more by students who live in places far from there they study,” Lapid said in Filipino.

Under the bill, each eligible student shall be entitled to a maximum loan amount of P50,000 per semester and a maximum of P400,000 allowing for up to five years of college enrollment.

The loan shall have a maximum term of 25 years and interest rate lower than prevailing interest rates, subject to the discretion of the disbursing financial institutions.

Amortizations shall start one year from the date of graduation or the end of the last semester of enrollment.

Administration of the program will be a shared responsibility of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), which shall process and endorse the loan application requirements of eligible students, and the disbursing financial institutions, which shall release the amounts.

Free tuition

CHED Chairman J. Prospero de Vera III yesterday maintained that all funds allocated for the government’s free higher education law program went to intended beneficiaries.

De Vera added that they “take seriously” the allegation raised by Sen. Risa Hontiveros that there were P7 billion worth of questionable releases in relation to the implementation of Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.

De Vera said the supposed questionable releases flagged by the COA have already been answered by CHED and the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education or UniFAST board, the primary implementer of the law. – Paolo Romero

COA

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