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TESDA ‘ghost’ scholars real

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“Ghost scholars” at the state-run Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in 2015 and 2016 during the term of former TESDA director now Sen. Joel Villanueva existed, TESDA director general Guiling Mamondiong said yesterday.

A Commission on Audit (CoA) report said TESDA’s ghost scholars and training centers received P10 million funding from the government.

The report stated that P9.3 million was paid to AMA Computer College (AMACC) Sta. Mesa in 2015.

“It happened in 2015, and it was discovered in 2016. AMACC has already returned the money to TESDA, which means there really were ghost scholars that’s why they returned the money, that is my personal conclusion,” Mamondiong said on radio.

The CoA report questioned TESDA’s use of more than P10 million in funds for training programs that had fictitious scholars, teachers and training centers.

In its 2017 audit report, the state audit agency said funds were apparently misused after thorough validations were conducted on two Technical Vocational Institutions (TVI) which were AMACC and the Technivoc Institute Corp. (TIC).

Auditors said they were not able to validate 195 of the 310 scholars for various reasons such as incorrect phone numbers while some 77 students revealed they were regular students of AMACC Fairview Campus and were not participants in a TESDA scholarship training.

AMACC consequently refunded P7.8 million on 11 July 2017 and P1.5 million on 13 April 2018 but blamed a former school director for the funds misuse.

Mamondiong admitted that with increased funding for the agency they expect not only a rush of additional trainees and scholars from the current number of over 200,000 all over the country.

DAP connection

CoA also flagged TESDA during Villanueva’s time for the same alleged ghost scholars. In 2014 the CoA also reported irregularities in TESDA’s use of funds sourced from the Aquino administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) which the Supreme Court (SC) declared as having been created through unconstitutional acts.

The DAP was billed as a scheme to speed up the use of government funds to supposedly stimulate the economy. Critics of then President Aquino, however, said budget allocations diverted to DAP were used as slush funds to facilitate political goals of Aquino, including the provision of pork barrel to legislators for the ousting of former SC Chief Justice Renato Corona.

The auditing agency said TESDA may have used some P1.1 billion in DAP funds in 2011 to finance ghost scholars. CoA found that 61 of the supposed scholars attended multiple training courses simultaneously, 46 never attended any training course while 218 could not be verified as they have false contact numbers.

Villanueva, when the CoA inquired on the supposed anomaly, passed the blame to TESDA-accredited schools, saying that he ordered these institutions to shut down. He stepped down from his post in October 2015, purportedly to prepare for his Senate bid.

Mamondiong said he is keen on filing charges against AMACC officials after the school sacked the involved employees, noting that since his assumption into office, he had hired an independent group to conduct a national audit on all TESDA training centers nationwide.
The national inspection held for a year until last February uncovered the non-existing scholars.

Asked on the integrity of the group, Mamondiong said “I talked to them and I met with the public and said that I will give P50,000 for any report of anomaly on TESDA.”

The TESDA director general also assured the public that charges will be filed against involved TESDA officials and employees.

“We currently have more than 200,000 scholars, trainees. This number is expected to grow due to the additional P10 billion budget,” Mamondiong said. “To all TESDA directors, pass the list of the scholars up for our assistance and there will be an inspection. I will make sure that the scholars are really there.”

CoA firm on findings

The CoA team that held the audit stood firm on its findings, particularly on the TIC owning a fictitious school despite a rebuttal from TIC officials that the institution was under renovation when CoA personnel visited it for an audit.

The audit team firmly believes that if there is really a training school within the Getz Hotel on Tayuman, Manila the [hotel] personnel would have known of its existence, according to CoA.

CoA said it is part of the jobs of Getz personnel to be familiar with their working environment, especially if you work in a hotel which caters services to people.

“The absence of a notice, a signage/sign board of TIC with TESDA logo within the vicinity of the hotel so that interested students/scholars can come and inquire, further confirmed the non-existence of TIC in that place,” CoA added.

“With regard to the answer of the TVI Program Director who averred that TIC never claimed that it conducted their trainings in the said barangays because all the lectures in 2016 were conducted in Getz Hotel during the time that there was no renovation going on, the audit team based its findings on TIC’s Enrollment and Terminal Report which was attached as supporting documents to their billing statements,” according to CoA.

It said what was clearly stated in TIC’s Enrollment and Terminal Report was that the venue for mobile training programs was conducted in some Manila barangays.

“Moreover, mobile training programs are based on the concept of “Park and Train” whereby a Tek Bok program is delivered to the doorstep of every community by means of Mobile Training Classrooms attached to a prime mover. Apparently, TIC’s implementation of mobile training programs was not in line with this objective and concept,” it added.

Delayed projects

The CoA audit also showed the implementation of the Training for Work Scholarship Program (TWSP) in 2017 which was allocated P2.4 billion was delayed.

The report said only 52 percent of target graduates due to late downloading of TWSP funds to regional, district and provincial offices resulting in the delay of TWSP scholarship trainings.

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