MANILA — The Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged the Department of Education (DepEd) over “deficiencies” in spending P8.136 billion COVID-19 funds, such as the non-submission of required documents.
State auditors also found alleged lapses in the budget utilization of the agency, non-compliance with Republic Act No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act, as well as incomplete procurement and delivery of self-learning modules (SLMs) that supposedly affected the implementation of distance learning.
The audit team said the DepEd management reasoned out, among others, the delay in the process of requesting for allotment release orders as well as the department's limited workforce.
"The audit team recognizes and understands the challenges posed by the current working condition," the COA said in its report.
"However, it has to be emphasized that the implementation of the program should not be affected by the setback in the timely release of the fund to maximize the benefits that can be derived therefrom and to assure the overall preparedness of the implementing schools in order to continue students’ learning amidst the threat and uncertainties brought about by the pandemic," it added.
The COA said delays in the delivery of modules to students were attributed to deficient planning, poor monitoring of deliveries, the failure of suppliers to complete the needed requirements within the agreed term, and the delayed transmittal of the final soft copy of modules for printing.
The audit report also observed errors in the SLMs in the National Capital Region, Cordillera Administrative Region and Central Luzon, such as errors in spellings, punctuations and other typographical errors.
Among the reasons for the errors cited by the concerned regional offices of DepEd were the unclear directives from the central office on the preparation of modules and lack of training of teachers.
The audit team recommended that the DepEd improve and strengthen its review process, scrutiny and evaluation of modules, and take heed of operational timelines in the conduct of procurement processes that need urgent and immediate action, among others.
In a statement, the DepEd said the COA findings may be used for the improvement of its budget management.
"Those noted by the Commission were mainly identified as recording errors which are now being rectified by DepEd following the instructions/recommendations of the auditing agency," the DepEd said.
"DepEd wishes to emphasize that none of the initial findings pertained to corruption, malversation of public funds, negligence, or the betrayal of public trust," it said.
In 2019, Education Secretary Leonor Briones formed a task force mandated to give proactive responses to audit concerns, the DepEd said.
"Compared to the previous year, DepEd performed significantly better and was able to satisfactorily comply with the accounting standards set by the Commission... This, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic starting CY 2020," it said.