Tesda fund transfers to PITC hit
MANILA, Philippines — Senators on Monday questioned the transfer of funds allocated for the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (Tesda) to the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) and for the anti-insurgency campaign, while it was noted to have been “inefficient” in use of funds performing its main mandate.
During Tesda’s budget briefing with the Senate committee on finance, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon called out Tesda for transferring P2 billion of its 2019 budget to the PITC, and P160 million to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) in 2021.
Drilon said it was illegal for Tesda to have sought the transfer of P2 billion to PITC for the purchase of tool kits even when the authority for the use of the funds had already lapsed, and had to be returned to the national treasury.
“There is really something wrong about how you are doing things. I want Tesda to submit a written explanation because these are substantial amounts that cannot be accounted for,” he said.
Senators raised the issue as Tesda sought approval of its proposed P14.5-billion budget for 2022, the bulk of which is intended for its technical and vocational training programs.
In response, Isidro Lapeña, Director General of Tesda, said he caused the transfer of the P2 billion to PITC because of “integrity issues” surrounding the agency’s own procurement system.
But under questioning by Sen. Nancy Binay, Lina Sarmiento, Deputy Director-General of Tesda, admitted that while PITC received the funds in 2019, it managed to deliver the purchased tool kits in 2021.
By seeking to transfer another P74 billion in its proposed 2022 budget, Drilon warned that Tesda may again be attempting to repeat what had already been flagged as illegal by the Commission on Audit (COA) in its 2021 audit report.
Some of the items that are sought to be funded for the implementation of Executive Order No. 70, which created the NTF-Elcac, include the conduct of mobile training and purchase of vehicles, Drilon said.
“This is the first time I am hearing [about] this kind of program in Tesda—being a participant in an anti-insurgency drive. Let me emphasize that these are not line items in the budget; these are hidden items,” he said.
Drilon cited how the COA noted the “lack of proper authority and legal basis and absence of appropriate guidelines as to how these [Tesda] funds shall be utilized.”
“It likewise exposed these funds to possible misuse of misappropriation,” Drilon said, quoting the audit report.
The senator also castigated Tesda for rendering a “misleading” report of having an 88-percent utilization of its budget, when all it did was actually download the funds to its regional offices.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian also denounced the “inefficiency” plaguing the operations of Tesda, as well as the high rate of mismatch of its programs to the job placements of its graduates, as cited by an Asian Development Bank study.
He noted how the agency has some P6.2 billion of its 2021 funds left unspent, warning that a rush to spend all its funds before the year ends would lead to wastage.
“You need to spend around P2 billion a month; so how do you plan to spend your remaining funds in the next three to four months? I hope it will not be through PITC again,” he said. INQ
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