Group welcomes cancellation of questionable Tesda deals

Cebu Daily News First Posted 10:21:00 08/07/2010

ILOILO CITY — An organization of government employees has welcomed the order of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) Director-General Joel Villanueva to freeze and investigate alleged questionable transactions entered into by the agency under the Arroyo administration.

But the Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLink) said Tesda's former head and now Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco's alleged mismanagement of the agency should be included in the investigation of the Truth Commission, which was created by President Aquino to investigate alleged corruption scandals during the Arroyo administration.

Villanueva has announced the cancellation of Tesda's procurements amounting to P112 million and has ordered an investigation into the around P1 billion worth of scholarships that the state-run agency owed to training centers and schools.

“We welcome the commitment and resolve of Director-General Villanueva to investigate the anomalies under Syjuco,” PSLink General Secretary Annie Geron told the Inquirer yesterday.

Geron said they had appealed to the President and Villanueva to stop payments for questionable transactions and to investigate the irregularities.

Geron had filed a pending P3.8-billion plunder case against Syjuco before the Office of the Ombudsman for alleged irregularities at the Tesda during Syjuco’s term from 2007 until he ran for representative of Iloilo's second congressional district early this year.

The plunder case included the alleged overpricing by 150 percent to 42,732 percent amounting to P60.9 million in the procurement of training tools and equipment under Tesda's P320-million Ladderized Education Program (LEP-TES).

Also included in the complaint was Tesda's P33.3-million prepaid card-enabled portal project that was allegedly implemented by a contractor not eligible to bid in the project and who has failed to deliver the prepaid cards.

Geron has also accused Syjuco of spending excessively for print media advertisements in the last four years amounting to P18,146.949.22 spent by the Tesda Central Office from 2005-2008 and P7,898,441.60 in advertising expenses incurred by Tesda office in Western Visayas in 2007-2008.

“(Villanueva) is in the position to get to the bottom of these irregularities and clean the ranks of Tesda. But Syjuco should also be investigated by the Truth Commission,” Geron said.

Syjuco has repeatedly denied the allegations of mismanagement and corruption against him as the handiwork of his political rivals. In an earlier interview, he dismissed the complaints as “ridiculous” and “harassment,” claiming that all transactions of the agency and his expenses were all accounted for. He has also accused Geron of getting back at him after he ordered her dismissal and other Tesda employees for alleged infractions.

Geron claimed that they were dismissed for exposing irregularities in the agency and has called for their reinstatement. /INQUIRER

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