COA flags CHED’s poor spending of funds for free tuition
The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has used only P1.45 billion out of the P8-billion funding for free tuition in state universities and colleges as of the end of 2017, according to the Commission on Audit (COA).
In its 2017 annual audit report, the COA called on the CHED to revisit its policies on the processing of claims and billings, as well as scholarship and research funding applications.
The COA directive is meant to address the delayed submission of requirements by the beneficiaries of CHED programs that led to lower than expected disbursement rates of its allocations.
Auditors blamed the 18.11-percent fund utilization rate for the Higher Education Support Program on the SUCs’ delayed submission of billing statements for subsidies to make up for the foregone tuition.
Universal Quality Access to Tertiary Education Act
The program was the first time the SUC students were relieved of the burden of paying tuition, even before President Duterte signed the Universal Quality Access to Tertiary Education Act into law.
Since the free tuition law was not yet effective at the time, the funds for 2017 came from the Senate’s realignment of the Department of Public Works and Highways’ allocations for projects in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
To avail of the tuition subsidy, the SUCs were required to submit the enrolled students’ names and contact details, their classes, and the corresponding number of units, and the registrar’s certification. Apparently, not all schools managed to comply immediately.
Low disbursement rate
The COA report noted the fact that the second semesters of most SUCs normally start in October. Despite this, the COA said the disbursement rate would only be adjusted to 37 percent.
The first semester claims were only processed and paid between Dec. 18 and Feb. 27, or a few months after the conclusion of the first semester.
Aside from the free tuition program, similarly low utilization rates of 44.55 percent and 55.64 percent were logged for the K to 12 Transition Program and the Philippine-California Advanced Research Institutes (PCARI).
Only P1.52 billion and P2.81 billion of the respective allocations of P3.4 billion and P5.04 billion were spent in 2017, the COA found.
Scholarships were granted under the K to 12 Transition Program to teachers and higher education personnel who were displaced by the education system’s overhaul and the two-year lull in the enrollment of college students.
However, the scholarship funds were not fully spent, because of the applicants’ delay in the submission of requirements such as proof of deloading, nominations, certificates of employment, and enrollment documents.
Meanwhile, the processing of applications for the PCARI— a 2013-2017 project for the skills enhancement of faculty members— were found to be rigorous, usually taking six to 10 months.
In response, the CHED management cited the “due diligence” conducted by the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education secretariat when it comes to the supporting documents on billings for tuition subsidies
The CHED also reasoned out that the scholarship funds tend to be obligated only during the last quarter of the year because the approval of applications was scheduled at the end of the second quarter.
CHED also pointed to the lack of applicants and the change in the academic calendars of some higher educational institutions as reasons for the inability to spend the PCARI funds. /vvp