Goody story turns sorry

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First of three parts

TWO PICTURES in stark contrast have been drawn about one agency: the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).

The first, a none-too-flattering one, by the Commission on Audit (COA), which speaks of “deficiencies” by the dozen in the agency’s implementation of its massive training and scholarship programs.

The second, glowing and pretty, by President Benigno S.Aquino 3rd, who has heaped generous praise on Tesda on many occasions, citing it as an exemplar of performance in the executive branch, in terms of the volume of scholars that it had trained in recent years.


For sure, given the billions of pesos it had received in the last several years, the odds that Tesda would fail in delivering a bounty of results should be small. Then again, also because of its billions, the odds that Tesda would falter in project implementation, and slide to corruption and wasteful spending, would seem to be not small, either.

Thus, even as President Aquino seems confident that Tesda has been performing right and well, state auditors have been less than happy with the agency, which describes its main tasks as providing “direction, policies, programs and standards toward quality technical education and skills development.”

Among other things, COA says there have been many “deficiencies” in Tesda’s scholarship programs funded with “pork” monies and awarded to private training institutes, including missed number of target beneficiaries, alleged overpricing of supplies and training courses, contracts awarded without bidding, improper selection of beneficiaries, seminar attendance sheets of doubtful integrity and the holding of different seminars on the same day and time for the same dubious beneficiaries, but at different locations.

Grew big too fast
According to COA’s 2013 annual agency report on Tesda, such deficiencies were particularly present in its implementation of two major programs that had been expanded using lump-sum monies that had been loaded up in Tesda’s budget that year: Training for Work Scholarship Program (TWSP) and Cash-for-Training Project (C4TP).

The report also revealed what state auditors said was “non-compliance” in the implementation of TWSP by Tesda’s partner Technical Vocational Institutions (TVIs) or partner training entities from the private sector.

For 2012 and 2013, data from COA and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed that Tesda received a total of P427.09 million in PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel) from legislators, including 19 who gave their “pork” monies to projects implemented by at least nine apparently favored TVIs.
(Ilaw ng Bayan and Informatics Computer Institute Valenzuela did not appear in DBM’s data on PDAF releases coursed through Tesda.)

TWSP had been funded under Tesda’s regular budget in previous years. In 2012, it was expanded, while C4TP was started as “a program funded from DSWD [Department of Social Welfare and Development] designed to focus on the potential contributions of disadvantaged youth to nation-building by engaging them in gainful employment by providing relevant, high quality and efficient technical education and skills development by Tesda.”

In 2012, Tesda received additional monies from the PDAF of legislators. It also got Disbursement Acceleration Program funds that year, one sum being its own DAP allocation, and another representing a big portion of the DAP assigned to the DSWD.

But it was when Tesda had expanded too fast and its budget had grown too fat that COA found major discrepancies in project implementation. This was even as COA cited that Tesda had reported good to outstanding results on its “key performance indicators” – i.e., number of scholars trained, graduated, assessed and employed and number of seminars conducted–in 2013.

In the end, the picture that emerges is that while Tesda has been striving to surpass the targets of its regular programs, its more generously funded training tracks have gotten caught in a web of conflicting interests–politics, commerce and corruption–involving some TVIs favored by a number of legislators, and favored further by some Tesda officers at the central, regional and provincial offices.

It’s an image that Tesda Director-General Emmanuel Joel Villanueva obviously doesn’t cherish. Speaking with PCIJ by phone recently, he said his problem with COA is it does not update its prior year’s reports to reflect agency action on its findings in subsequent months.

“Ang ano kulang sa COA, every time they come out with a report, they do not lift a finger to update the report and say naayos na. Hindi raw nila policy ’yun [My concern with COA is, every time they come out with a report, they do not a lift a finger to update the report and say that the problem has been addressed. They say it’s not their policy],” Villanueva said
He added that despite COA’s adverse findings on Tesda in COA’s report for 2013, “since I took over, at no time has COA issued a notice of disallowance or notice of suspension on me or Tesda.” Villanueva became Tesda chief in July 2010.

To be continued

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