MANILA, Philippines – The San Fernando city government in Pampanga reportedly hired mostly well-off kids for a state employment program meant to help poor students, state auditors said in a report.
The Commission on Audit (COA) said in a report released on Tuesday, October 13, that the city government failed to ensure that the Special Program for Employment of Students (SPES) benefitted the intended sector in the city as it did not comply with all the provisions of Republic Act No. 9547 or the Expanded SPES Law.
The city government hired 700 students in 3 batches in 2014, under the program.
The Public Employment Services Office (PESO), in coordination with the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO), was the designated implementing office. It was supposed to ensure observance of the basic rule that only high school or college students from low-income families would be hired.
A low income family has a maximum annual income of P118,000 ($2,560).
Upon verification by the audit team, it was discovered that among those who were hired for the program were residents of exclusive subdivisions like St Jude, Ramar, St Augustine, Don Ramon, Pilar, Kalayaan, Villa Classica, Maligaya, Villa Barosa, Krystal Homes, Greenville, Gemsville, San Isidro, Lourdes Heights, Villa Julita, St Dominic Corinthian, and St Benedict.
The students’ addresses were determined from their application documents that included barangay certificates, electricity bills, and personal information sheets.
“The (records) showed that most of the selected SPES beneficiaries do not belong to the indigent families. A big number live in subdivisions and villages…which indigents cannot afford to buy, rent or lease,” the COA said.
‘Beneficiaries owned hi-tech gadgets’
State auditors added that “further verification also disclosed that they studied in private schools with high cost of education such as University of Assumption, Holy Angel University, Angeles University Foundation, Colegio de Sebastian, Asian College of Science and Technology, Our Lady of Fatima University, and other private schools in the city.”
The COA said families falling under the poverty threshold could not possibly afford those schools, even with the upgraded income level of at P19,163 ($416) per month for Pampanga set by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
Another indication that the beneficiaries were not poor students were their gadgets, the COA said.
“We observed some SPES beneficiaries assigned in different offices use hi-tech gadgets such as tablets, iPhones, and even wear corrective braces on their teeth,” it said.
The COA said that when the employed students were interviewed by the audit team, they admitted that they were able to apply for the program as they learned about it through barangay (village) officials “who happened to be friends of their parents.”
‘Correct the irregularity’
The COA said it was the obligation of the city government to make sure that the right beneficiaries are informed through public announcements in the poorer areas and in public schools, so they could avail of the program.
When accosted by the COA, the City PESO manager pinned the blame on the CSWDO. The City PESO claimed it was the latter that issued certifications that the families of the applicants had incomes of less than P10,000 ($217) per month.
The COA recommended that San Fernando City Mayor Edwin D. Santiago should take immediate steps to correct the irregularity and “avoid favored referrals/endorsement” of SPES applicants for a more objective hiring process.
The CSWDO was also directed to create a database of all out-of-school secondary and tertiary level residents to give them an opportunity to earn and continue their studies. – Rappler.com
$1 = P46