COA questions CHED's handling of P435 million in scholarship program
MANILA, Philippines – Government auditors are questioning how the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) utilized some P435.368 million under its Student Financial Assistance Programs (StuFAPs), a report release recently showed.
The 2016 report of the Commission on Audit (COA), released on July 20, identified the issues:
- Delayed processing and releasing of claims, totaling P140.48 million
- Unliquidated fund transfers to higher education institutions (HEIs) amounting to P120.156 million
- P93.61 million in benefits payments that lacked or had insufficient documentation
- P77 million in unclaimed or stale checks due to lapses in processing
- P2.57 million paid to scholars who were enrolled in non-priority courses under the program
- P1.471 million recorded double or excess payments
The large amount not utilized properly due to delays in processing ran counter to the program's objective of funding poor but deserving college scholars.
According to the audit, "In 5 CHEDROs (CHED Regional Offices), processing of claims and release of payments were delayed from one month to more than a year, thus depriving beneficiaries of the immediate use of the funds for their educational needs."
These were offices in the Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Bicol, and Eastern Visayas.
Of these 5 regional offices, CHED's Region 2 Office held a record P105.25 million in delayed funding for scholarships.
Meanwhile, universities and colleges in Davao Region and Soccsksargen posted unliquidated benefits payments of approximately P120.156 million. Auditors attributed this to weak monitoring and validation, which puts in doubt whether the money actually got to its respective beneficiaries.
Some P93.61 million supposedly released to 3,828 college scholars was also inadequately supported by proper documentation. The breakdown showed CHED's office in Western Visayas as the worst performer in this regard, with 2,047 grantees affected, involving around P68.99 million.
Stale and unclaimed checks of around P77.08 million were also reported in CHED offices in Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, and Soccsksargen. These involved program releases related to the second semester of 2015-2016 and the first semester of 2016-2017.
CHED Region 2 had the largest sum, with 11,495 students affected to the tune of P43.14 million. The CHEDRO said this was caused by the failure of scholars or grantees to maintain their requisite academic requirements.
The COA also took note that lawmakers in the region appeared to have played a part. The COA said scholars in the master listings provided by the congressional offices did not enroll in the required courses.
The StuFAP system also held a weakness, which let 203 grantees collect two types of financial assistance, meaning they were paid twice. 472 scholars, meanwhile, got cash assistance grants, despite their chosen courses not falling under the priority courses of the program.
COA's auditors served notices to rectify this, telling students who received double or excessive grants that they were required to reimburse the amount equivalent to the overpayment.
The auditors also told CHED to act faster to secure the return of stale checks, as well as getting back refunds or liquidation of undocumented fund transfers. – Rappler.com