TESDA gets P700-M scholarship fund

By Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:14:00 08/10/2010

MANILA, Philippines—While downsizing the government budget for next year, President Aquino has committed an allocation of some P700 million to fund the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority's scholarship program for 2011 even as its new leadership pursues a probe into possible misuse of funds under the past administration, the agency's chief has bared.

Tesda Director General Joel Villanueva said his agency secured the fund commitment after budget discussions on Monday, when Aquino expressed his support to continue training the unemployed in technical and vocational courses.

“From the start, tech-voc courses have been a priority, and the President recognized the role of tech-voc. He wouldn't want Tesda to suffer with lack of funds just because of what happened before,” said Villanueva.

He was referring to previous reports of fund misuse in Tesda under previous leaders, among them the purchase of P39-million in allegedly overpriced training tools and procurement of P73-million worth of computers and other IT products.

Villanueva canceled the purchases on Aug. 4, his first day.

Tesda hopes to raise the employment rate of its scholars, said Villanueva, as he lamented the dismal 15 percent workforce absorption of the agency's trainees.

“The absorption rate is really unacceptable. We want to bring this number up. We hope we can do double and this is what I'll be discussing with my directors,” he told the INQUIRER.

Agency figures showed that of some 743,465 Tesda scholars in overnment training centers and partner schools from 2008 to 2009, only 113,710 got jobs after graduation.

He has also ordered an investigation into some P1-billion in unfunded allocations for Tesda scholarships, funding that Villanueva said were committed when the agency had already run out of training budget.

The 2011 scholarship budget will not be used to cover the P1-billion unfunded commitments as they would be used to pay for new scholarships, Villanueva said.

The Tesda chief has also ordered a special audit of some P5 billion in scholarships used from 2008-2009 following reports that some of the money went to fly-by-night schools and ghost scholars.

“Now, we are doing a separate COA (Commission on Audit) audit. There is already a report but we have to make sure that, first, it went through Tesda supervision and, second, who should be held accountable for it,” he said.

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