SCHOOLS are possible breeding grounds for flu and cold viruses, yet the P22-million hand washing and sanitation program of the Department of Education (DepEd) is in drought.
The Commission on Audit (COA) underscored in its report that the P22.68-million hand washing facilities “were mostly not functional [and]not fully utilized.”
The program stemmed from a 2009 DepEd order that called for the “immediate construction” of hand washing facilities in public schools for the prevention of A(H1N1) flu virus and other infectious diseases.
Another department order was released in 2011 to provide guidelines for the implementation of the Basic Education Facilities Fund (BEFF), which allows the use of state funds to improve toilet and water facilities in high-need areas.
However, the audit team detailed negative remarks in an ocular inspection in four divisions for the BEFF.
Auditors reported that out of the 25 schools inspected in Misamis Oriental province, only 16 percent have functional hand washing facilities, which cost P17.14 million.
Some of the facilities lack water and electrical connection, while others have broken faucets and unsanitary premises.
A P2.93-million worth of three and four-seater toilets in the Division of Navotas were also found to be dirty and lacking in water supply.
On the other hand, 11 facilities were not used in Tanza Elementary School “because the school already had sufficient toilets to serve its population.”
Further, toilets with hand washing facilities worth P1.83 million in two schools in Malabon “could be considered unnecessary”, while those in three other schools were “not maintained due to poor water supply.”
In Biliran province, schools labored for P776,160 worth of hand washing facilities. However, these were likewise left gathering grime.
“It seemed that concerned officials did not consider the availability of water resources in the targeted schools and sanitation of the facilities pursuant to the DepEd order to ensure the sustainability of these facilities,” the report noted.
Auditors said that had officials “exercised due diligence,” these schools would not have been selected and funds could have been allocated to other projects.
The COA also asked DepEd to require teachers and school heads to “rehabilitate, clean and maintain” the facilities, and emphasized the stringent planning and programming of projects to “prevent unnecessary wastage of public funds.”