Only 9 of 4,535 scholars left in DA program, says COA

Rappler.com
Only 9 of 4,535 scholars left in DA program, says COA
Auditors say that many applicants have dropped out of the Agricultural Enhancement Competitiveness Fund scholarship scheme, discouraged by complications in the application process and delays in the release of the fund

MANILA, Philippines – A recent Commission on Audit (COA) report revealed only 9 out of the 4,535 scholars of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Agricultural Enhancement Competitiveness Fund (ACEF) were still receiving stipends as of December 31, 2015.

From 2009 to 2015, the survival rate of ACEF scholars dropped to 0.2%, according to the report released on July 27.

SCHOOL YEAR NUMBER OF ACEF SCHOLARS
2009-2010 1,270
2011-2012 1,205
2012-2013 368
2013-2014 1,107
2014-2015 585
TOTAL 4,535

But the COA reported that the 4th tranche listing showed only 9 students were still receiving fund vouchers under the department’s program.

This, despite the program receiving allocations amounting to P130.57 million ($2.78 million) in 2015.

“In 2015, the number of scholars released with fund of 4,535 drastically decreased ranging from 36% to 99%,” the COA noted.

Congress created the scholarship program in order to produce “quality and competitive graduates nationwide” that will help the country’s agricultural sector.

The program was meant to assist undergraduate, post-secondary, and returning students enrolled in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and veterinary medicine courses in select state universities and colleges, technical-vocational schools, and accredited private higher education institutions.

But according to auditors, while P99.28 million ($2.11 million) of the 2015 budget was obligated, complications in the application process and delays in the release of the fund discouraged many applicants. This led to them dropping out.

The DA admitted this much, saying in its comment to the findings that availment procedures proved too difficult not only for the students, but even for the schools.

The program faced other challenges such as the lack of prescribed application forms, strict rules in liquidation, too many requirements needed each school year, and the confusion caused by how scholars were grouped.

With these findings, the COA recommended an overhaul of the ACEF scholarship that will speed up processing and disbursement so as not to repeat a lot of cases in the past wherein fund releases were only approved when the school year has already started. – Rappler.com

*US$1 = P47.04

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