TESDA chief grilled over P2-billion fund transfer to PITC

Bruce Rodriguez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 18 2021 08:56 PM | Updated as of Oct 18 2021 09:47 PM

Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) is again linked to a questionable government fund transfer, this time regarding a P2-billion budget from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) made in 2019.

At a Senate finance committee budget hearing for TESDA and PITC, Senator Franklin Drilon asked who authorized the transfer of the P2 billion funds even if the validity to use the money has already lapsed.

"TESDA was supposed to have returned P2 billion to the national treasury. What you did was to move this to PITC even if you can no longer utilize these funds," Drilon told Isidro Lapeña, director general of TESDA. 

He said the fund transfer is against the law.

But in his defense, Lapeña said he authorized the the transfer of expired funds while insisting the funds were still valid.

"I requested for the transfer of these funds to PITC, for PITC to pursue the procurement of the toolkits that were part of the scholarship program," he said.

Lapeña also explained they had a problem with the integrity of TESDA's procurement system, which is why they tapped the government-owned trading company.

But based on reports from TESDA, the toolkits were only delivered earlier in 2021, or two years after the funds were transferred to PITC.

Senator Cynthia Villar shared her own "bad experience" with the PITC when she and other local government units along Manila Bay in 2016, gave a P400 million budget to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the procurement of composting facilities and plastic processing factories.

The DENR gave that budget to the PITC but Villar said up until now, she has yet to see the project being completed.

Villar asked Lapeña, "I have very bad experience with PITC and so many people have very bad experience sa PITC. Bakit niyo dinadala ang pera niyo sa PITC?"

But it wasn't just TESDA that has been transferring funds to PITC.

According to a report presented by PITC officer-in-charge Christabelle Ebriega, the top five offices that have transferred money to PITC are the Philippine Army with P13 billion, the University of the Philippines education system with P4 billion, the Department of Information and Communication Technology with P3.5 billion, the Bureau of Fire Protection with P3.8 billion, TESDA with P3.3 billion, and the Department of Health with P3.3 billion 

"These projects involve procurement, so we are not the contractor for these infrastructure projects," she explained. 

The PITC has been linked to various government procurement controversies, including P11.02 billion in funds transferred by various government offices from 2014-2020 that remained unused as of December 2021.

Ebriega also said they're in the process of returning in unused funds back to the treasury, including P1.96 billion in transfers from various agencies.

"That amount, if there are no problems within the month, that should be returned," she said. 

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