COA flags deficiencies in distance learning funds; Gatchalian to lead inquiry on school opening

With less than a month to go before the opening of School Year 2021-2022, Senator Win Gatchalian says the Senate will have a thorough assessment of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) readiness for a prolonged distance learning scenario.

The lawmaker said this after the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged deficiencies worth P8.136 billion for the implementation of the Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP).

Among the deficiencies flagged by state auditors are lapses in the budget utilization, non or incomplete submission of the required documents, and other deficiencies in disbursements and procurements, among others.

Gatchalian filed Senate Resolution No. 739 to assess if basic education institutions can deliver quality education for the next school year, whether through face-to-face classes, distance learning, or other alternative delivery modes.

“Ngayong pinaghahandaan natin ang pagbubukas ng panibagong school year, nais nating matiyak na handa ang DepEd na makapaghatid ng dekalidad na edukasyon habang nagpapatuloy ang pandemya. Dapat ay natuto na tayo mula sa karanasan natin ng nakaraang taon upang maiwasan ang mga naging problema sa pagpapatupad ng distance learning,” said Gatchalian.

COA also flagged the flawed, incomplete, and delayed procurement, reproduction, and delivery of self-learning modules (SLMs), considered as the backbone of distance learning.

The delays were attributed to factors such as deficient planning, poor monitoring of deliveries, and suppliers’ failure to complete the requirements on time.

State auditors added that the non-availability of the modules on the period in which it is supposed to be used deprived learners of better learning opportunities and hampered the continuity of the learning process.

The COA report added that five regional offices were not able to fully adhere to prescribed specifications for the SLMs, which resulted in poor printing quality.

The existence of errors and deficiencies in SLMs also showed procedural lapses in the checking, review, and evaluation process or system as provided for in DepEd Memorandum No. 82 s. 2017, the report said.

In its response to the COA’s findings, DepEd emphasized that “none of the initial findings pertained to corruption, malversation of public funds, negligence, or the betrayal of public trust.”

DepEd added that in 2019, the Audit Observation Memorandum (AOM) Task Force was created to help improve the addressing of audit concerns.