Last of three parts
Officials of the regional office of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in the Calabarzon seminars funded by the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) are “not covered” by the agency’s training regulations.
Responding to queries of the Commission on Audit (COA) on how the discrepancies it observed came about, Tesda officials said “under the Guidelines on the Implementation of the Training Programs under PDAF, qualifications which are not regulated by the Training Regulation can be covered by PDAF.”
The PDAF-funded seminars, they reasoned out, are “not covered” by Tesda’s training rules, except that these should adhere, “whenever applicable,” to the competencies or cluster of competencies prescribed in Tesda’s Training Regulations.
“This would mean that programs without training regulation (NTR) can be implemented under the Technology-Based Community Training Programs, which would gear toward self-employment or entrepreneurship or technopreneurship,” Tesda’s management said.
Tesda Region IV-A management’s response to COA ended with this: “The training program conducted….[was]identified/approved by the concerned Congress person with proposals and submitted to Tesda.”
COA’s queries on the seminars funded by “pork” and conducted by BSC Technological Institute Inc. would draw similar responses from Tesda.
BSC had gotten P3 million for the “Scholarship Program for Hairdressing NC II” courtesy of “pork” monies from Pangasinan Rep. Ma. Rachel Arenas.
Scrutinizing the PDAF-funded training courses run by BSC, COA had noted the same discrepancies–higher cost per scholar for much shorter seminars- – it had observed with the three sister technical-vocational institutes that conducted seminars in Calabarzon.
Tesda-MuntiParLasTaPat (Muntinglupa-Parañaque-Las Piñas-Taguig-Pateros) management’s reply to COA: “The guidelines for the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) under Tesda Circular 23, series of 2011 dated October 10, 2011, [have]not provided a ceiling for the training cost and prescribed number of training hours under the Technology-based Community Training Program.”
“For this, reason,” it continued, “it cannot be concluded that the BSC’s training cost is higher by P13,000.00 per scholar than the standard. Absent any express prohibition on charging beyond what is supposed to be the ceiling, the claim of the BSC cannot be deemed irregular.”
“It bears emphasis,” the management said, “that Tesda controls and regulates only the amount of assessment fee but not the tuition fee [sic]for every course or qualification being offered to the public by a private TVI under the PDAF-sponsored scholarship program, as compared with Cash for Training Project / Training for Work Scholarship Program (C4TP/TWSP) where funds come from the budget of Tesda.”
In other words, while PDAF and other lump-sum monies had been loaded up in Tesda’s budget, Tesda should not and could not, direct or control how these are spent, even in instances when its own rules are being defied. When it comes to “pork” funds, only legislators and local officials could say how and where these should go.
A secret purse?
The transformation of a tiny agency attached to the Department of Labor and Employment into a virtual catchment basin or even secret purse for bankrolling the so-called “scholarship programs” of legislators and local officials under the Aquino administration appears to have begun in 2012.
Under the government at present, Tesda started with a “regular” or “agency-specific budget” of only P2.84 billion in 2010 and 2011. It dipped slightly to P2.75 billion in 2012.
It then rose a bit to P2.97 billion in 2013, jumped to P5.12 billion in 2014 and grew further to P5.32 billion in 2015.
It was 2012, however, which actually marked the start of Tesda’s foray into big money.
This was when it received P2.95 billion in lump-sum funds or more than its own agency budget, supposedly to expand TWSP and to launch the Cash-for-Training Program of DSWD.
The amount included P1.35 billion from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) for 2012 and as “continuing appropriation” from 2011; and P301 million in PDAF.
Another P1.31 billion came just as the year was ending in December 2012, from the Department of Social Welfare and Development for the implementation of Tesda-DSWD Cash-for-Training Project; this, though, was not used in 2012.
In 2013, Tesda’s regular agency budget was listed under the General Appropriations Act to be only P2.97 billion. In truth, however, Tesda received a total appropriation of P3.82 billion.
Aside from its agency-specific budget of P2.971 billion, it also got a P365-million special purpose fund and P144.8-million automatic appropriations.
In addition, Tesda received P1.72 billion in lump-sum funds–P1.47 billion of its own DAP and portions of the DAP of DSWD; and P125.9 million in PDAF.
The Supreme Court, however, ruled “pork” to be unconstitutional in November 2013. So in 2014, the government put in place a modified system of budget earmarks. The pet projects of legislators were enrolled in the budgets of five executive agencies, including Tesda. As a result, Tesda’s “agency-specific budget” grew twice as much to P5.12 billion in 2014. This year, its allocation rose further to P5.32 billion.
Such additional monies, though, were being downloaded mostly to Tesda’s provincial and regional offices, released at the discretion of their directors, and for “scholars” and typically private training institutes endorsed and/or pre-selected by legislators and local officials.
Missed target, deadline
All these complications, of course, did not excuse Tesda from meeting its targets. But the agency seemed to have taken more than it could deliver with its expanded programs, which are also infused with “pork.”
According to COA’s report that was released in June 2014, Tesda had missed its targeted number of scholars/trainees under TWSP in 2013 by 10 percent. It had also failed to spend all of its lump-sum funds for both TWSP and C4TP within the year.
Tesda had aimed to train 261,865 scholars under TWSP and C4TP in 2013, COA noted. By
mid-2014, however, it had only 234,223 “graduates/ongoing trainees,” for a balance of 27,642 scholars.
In addition, COA said Tesda had an unused balance of P292.11 million by mid-2014, and that the agency had failed to revert this amount to the Treasury.
In his reply letter to PCIJ, Tesda Director-General Joel Villanueva wrote that as of June 2015–or a year after the COA had finalized its audit report on Tesda’s budget in 2013–“based on monitoring of the Tesda-Project Management Office, out of the 261,865 targeted scholars, 240,648 enrolled and 233,776 graduated, of which 6,872 dropped out/did not continue the training (or 2.86 percent drop-out rate).” This, he said, was “below the allowable 5 percent drop-out rate.”
Again as of June 2015, Villanueva said, “The adjusted total unutilized fund as reported to COA is only P109.84 million,” and that “the entire amount was totally reverted to: (a) General Appropriations Fund–P6.97 million; and (b) National Treasury–P102.87 million.”