Probe school repair fund mess, VP asked

Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Z. Duterte has been urged to look into the reported failure of the Department of Education (DepEd) in the previous administration to fix and equip school furniture such as desks and chairs despite having a nearly P9.5 billion budget.

Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte on Tuesday cited the Commission on Audit (CoA) annual report on DepEd, which bared only 2,689 or 23.45 percent of the 11,468 classrooms funded for repair in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) were actually mended last year.

“We are hopeful that Vice President and concurrent DepEd Secretary Inday Sara could look into her agency’s low accomplishment rate last year for its Basic Education Facilities Fund (BEFF) — as flagged by the CoA — in the hope that the Department could, on her watch, put on the front burner the overdue makeover of almost 9,000 classrooms whose repair was already tucked in the BEFF’s P9.467-billion outlay in 2021,” Villafuerte said.

The lawmaker stressed that DepEd, under former secretary Leonor Briones failed to repair more than 1,800 classrooms in Iriga City and 35 municipalities in CamSur alone last year. However, the refurbishment of these facilities was already included in last year’s allocations for the BEFF and Quick Response Fund (QRF) for school repair and new furniture for students and teachers.

“It was apparently a matter of low absorptive capacity and not a funding issue, given that nearly 80 percent of the repair budget had been obligated to the DepEd last year,” Villafuerte said.

However, the solon expressed confidence that Duterte would not let this setback slide, “considering her solid record as a down-to-earth” mayor of Davao City before.

According to the CoA report, as of 31 December last year, a total of P7.483 billion, or 79.04 percent of the BEFF budget, had already been obligated, leaving only P1.984, or 20.96 percent, unused.

In citing the same CoA report, Villafuerte said that in CamSur, 1,405 classrooms in 296 schools in 35 municipalities were supposed to have received a combined BEFF allocation of P451.66 million last year for repair, but none of these projects was funded.

For instance, he claimed that the capital town of Pili was supposed to receive P32.59 million from the BEFF for repairing classrooms in 16 schools, but none were repaired due to no funds released by DepEd.

Furthermore, Villafuerte noted that Buhi and Bula towns had the highest number of unfunded repair projects, as they were supposed to have received P32.43 million for the repair of classrooms in 30 schools and P25.3 million for the repair of classrooms in 21 schools, respectively.

As for the QRF, Villafuerte said 121 schools in Iriga City and 22 municipalities were supposed to have received P560.35 million from this separate Fund for the repair, rehabilitation, or replacement of classrooms, but none of these projects was funded last year.

CoA’s audit report also revealed that none of the targeted 553,338 pieces of furniture — individual tables and chairs for elementary and high school students as well as tables and chairs for their teachers — to be distributed to various public schools was procured in 2021.

“The above low accomplishment rate showed that the BEFF program’s target of providing school furniture, repairs and rehabilitation of classrooms and electrification were not fully achieved,” the state auditor said in its 2021 report.

The CoA advised the DepEd to “observe strict monitoring and supervision of the overall program implementation to ensure its timely completion and delivery to the intended recipient schools.”

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