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MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Audit (COA) recently flagged the National Youth Commission (NYC), now headed again by Chairperson Ronaldo Cardema, for diverting up to P2.714 million in 2021 to support the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
According to COA’s 2021 Annual Audit Report, made public in June 2022, these funds were intended for the training of youth leaders under the Sangguniang Kabataan Mandatory and Continuing Training Fund (SKMCTF) and rehabilitation efforts for Marawi City through Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM).
This is not the first time the youth body has been questioned for mismanaging its funds. (READ: [OPINION] Weaponizing the National Youth Commission)
Cardema became officer-in-charge of the NYC in 2018, when the first chairperson appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte, singer and actor Ice Seguerra, resigned.
In August that year, Cardema, also a Duterte Youth leader during the presidential campaign, was finally appointed as chairperson and CEO. He left when he tried to get nominated for the party list, but has since been reappointed as commissioner, then chairperson.
In between, Ryan Enriquez sat as chairperson, his term also marked by complaints of mismanagement from employees.
Here’s a rundown of state auditors’ findings of NYC fund misuse under President Duterte’s appointees:
2018: COA orders NYC to refund excess pay
COA ordered the NYC to refund what it deemed were unauthorized extra compensation and excess reimbursement of meals and travel expenses incurred in 2018.
Their 2018 report flagged the youth commission for incorrect credits of compensatory time off and special day off, improper monetization of leave credit, and excessive claims of travel and meals.
2019: Huge spending, little accomplishment
Cardema’s predecessor, former chairperson Seguerra, criticized him for apparently using his position and government resources while in the NYC to campaign for Duterte Youth in the party-list race.
In COA’s report for 2019, state auditors called out the youth commission for incurring huge expenses despite having little to show for it.
The NYC spent P9.333 million out of the P10.405 million in project funds – 89.7% of the allotment – yet only completed 4 out of the 12 projected activities under their anti-drug and HIV-prevention programs.
2020: Stale checks and irresponsible spending
Around mid-2020, the National Youth Commission Employees Association (NYCEA) sent a letter of appeal to President Duterte’s office, urging him to remove chairperson Enriquez. They cited several instances of Enriquez’s alleged abuse and usurpation of authority, violation of security of tenure, and harassment. At least 120 SK and student organizations backed them.
In September that year, chairman Enriquez was blasted online for a “public service announcement” billboard on the pandemic that carried his massive photo. Netizens speculated that taxpayers’ money must have been used to produce the billboard.
Meanwhile, in COA’s 2020 report, auditors found that unreleased and uncashed checks more than six months old, totaling P291,000, were not reverted to the NYC’s cash account.
Auditors observed that NYC’s financial statements were not faithful representations of their expenses due to discrepancies, such as inventory items and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) units totaling to P141,000 not being classified as semi-expendable items or items that cost less P15,000 despite being so.
The COA also flagged the NYC for hiring a total of 51 contract workers, and paying them a total of P8.9 million for assuming job responsibilities that were already similar to what regular employees are doing.
2021: Called out for supporting NTF-ELCAC, illegal use of Marawi funds
State auditors found that, in 2021, the NYC withdrew P652,000 from the SKMCTF to pay the salaries of three contract-of-service (COS) hires despite their jobs being unrelated to the Sangguniang Kabataan program or its purpose.
These three COS hires worked as “Presidential Staff Officers,” and were each paid around P30,000 per month.
COA found that the tasks of these hires were unrelated to the objectives of the fund outlined in RA 10742 or the Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Act of 2015, and were conducting activities to support the NTF-ELCAC instead.
COA concluded that the use of the SKMCTF to pay contract hires was an “irregular or illegal expenditure,” based on COA Circular No. 2012-003.
Funds amounting to P2,061,818 were also withdrawn from the Bangon Marawi Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Program (BMCRRP) to pay for the “mental and psycho-social services” of 40 youth volunteers who were hired as health care or social workers.
These services did not fall under the roles of the NYC as a member of the pandemic task force.
All activities related to health were led by the sub-committee on health and social service, headed by the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
The NYC worked under the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the co-lead agency of the sub-committee on security, peace, and order with the Department of National Defense Department.
Based on these findings, COA declared these expenditures as both redundant and a waste of public funds. – Rappler.com