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Youth group hits Aquino admin over P1.2-B unspent fund for poor students

/ 04:59 PM January 13, 2016

A youth group slammed the Aquino government for supposedly being deceptive in saying that it prioritizes education after a recently-released Commission on Audit report revealed that the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) failed to spend P1.2 billion earmarked for government assistance programs for poor students due to “internal control weaknesses.”

Samahan ng mga Progresibong Kabataan (Spark) slammed Ched for allowing “shady” bureaucratic practices to hamper the spending of the fund which will supposedly benefit thousands of poor students.

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“This development highlights the deception of the Aquino government in repeatedly boasting that it has increasingly expanded spending on education, with the number of its beneficiaries financial assistance programs increasing ten-fold in 2014. But in reality, the budget it has allotted failed to reach those students who need it the most because of inefficiency and shady practices in the bureaucracy,” Spark National Coordinator Arvin Buenaagua said in a statement on Wednesday.

The INQUIRER reported that P1.2 billion in the P5.2 billion allocated for Ched for its student financial assistance programs (Stufaps) for 2014 went unspent due to some “deficiencies.” The said amount was supposed to help 391, 817 poor students through scholarships, grants-in-aid and study-now and pay-later loans.

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READ: P1.2-B fund for poor students unspent–COA

State auditors uncovered the following deficiencies:

  • excess, double or multiple payments made to 703 students totaling P3.44 million;
  • cash advances of P108 million which cannot be verified if it has been received by beneficiaries;
  • delayed release of allowances by up to 14 months to at least 25,442 students;
  • checks worth P9.3 million that were not claimed because the beneficiaries were not notified

Buenaagua said that the deficiencies can be seen as red flags for possible corruption in the commission.

“The failure of CHED to verify cash advances they have released amounting to P108 million and its P3.44 million-worth of excess, double and multiple payments point not only to government inefficiency, but possible corruption in the provision of Stufaps,” Buenaagua said.

The group wants the Aquino government to be held accountable on the unspent fund, even saying that the development as “disturbing” following the spate of supposed education-related deaths under the current administration.

“Transparency without accountability is nothing,” the group said.

Spark has proposed an “across-the board increase” in the education budget which will reportedly increase access to tertiary education.

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TAGS: Aquino Administration, budget, COA, Commission on Higher Education, Samahan ng mga Progresibong Kabataan, Spark, student financial assistance programs, Stufaps
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