[Press Release] Youth group slams CHED for P1.2-B unspent funds for poor students -SPARK

Youth group slams CHED for P1.2-B unspent funds for poor students

Members of the youth criticized the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Aquino government for failing to spend over 1.23 billion pesos-worth of funds meant to be spent on financial assistance for impoverished college students.

SPARK KabataanStudent-leaders from SPARK – Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan, cited the recently-released 2014 report by the Comission on Audit (COA), in condemning the failure of CHED to spend P1.23 billion of the allotted P5.2 billion aimed at helping almost 400,000 poor college students through student financial assistance programs (StuFAPs).

“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,” said SPARK National Coordinator Vin Buenaagua. “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.”

Buenaagua cited the recently-released Commission on Audit (COA) report in saying that CHED has repeatedly failed in allocating slots for StuFAPs, as well as processing and releasing allowances for supposed beneficiaries.

“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 added.

COA, in the report, also mentioned the delayed release of allowances to at least 25, 442 students by up to 14 months, as well as P9.3 million-worth of checks which failed to reach its un-notified beneficiaries as part of CHED’s “internal control weaknesses.”

Tuition a matter of life and death; Greater education subsidy encouraged

Joanne Lim, member of the University of the Philippines-Diliman University Student Council (UPD-USC), described this development as disturbing, given the succession of education-related deaths the youth sector has suffered under the Aquino administration.

“The deaths of UP’s Kristel Tejada, Cagayan’s Rosemary Sanfuego, and EARIST’s Jhoemary Azaula, show us that matriculation and financial capability are matters of life and death,” said Lim. “That there are funds which did not reach beneficiaries in time or did not reach them at all is nothing less than injustice.”

Lim, who serves as the UPD College of Science Representative to the USC, demands that the Aquino government and the current CHED administration “must be held accountable.” “Reports like this mean nothing if no one is punished once irregularities are exposed,” she added. “Transparency without accountability is nothing.”

“These anomalies are not unexpected in the government’s approach to student financial assistance,” said Buenaagua. “Like what we have seen in the pork barrel system and the disbursement acceleration program (DAP), allocating a huge sum of resources in lump-sum to be spent on previously unspecified items, is prone to patronage, corrupt practices and underspending.”

Buenaagua emphasized that an across-the board increase in spending on education provides a better, more efficient and just alternative to the present system. “If the end goal of StuFAPs is primarily to incentivize the student to pursue education, there is no better way of doing this than to increase its quality and accessibility,” he concluded.

SPARK – Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan
Vin Buenaagua, Coordinator – 09159729119, vin.buenaagua@gmail.com
Joanne Lim, UP Diliman USC – 0906 404 5023,  jrslim69@gmail.com

January 13, 2016

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