The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) seeks to clarify news reports on the Commission on Audit (COA) findings regarding the so-called “unspent P1.2-B fund for poor students.” COA’s latest report which was posted on their website early this week contains the annual audit report executive summary and outlined observations and recommendations on CHED accounts and operations in 2014. The report also enumerated CHED’s courses of action based on the agreements in the Commission’s exit conference with COA in July 2015.
At the time of the exit conference, documentation for the obligation of funds from the CHED regional offices still needed updating, but to date, these reports have already been completed. In fact, by December 31, 2015, the remaining P1.2-B 2014 budget which had a validity of two years, had been fully obligated with an assurance that the beneficiaries will be paid.
It can be recalled that at the end of 2013, the Supreme Court declared the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) unconstitutional. In response, lawmakers realigned their PDAF allocations to the calamity fund and six agencies, including CHED for scholarship assistance to students.
As a consequence, CHED’s Student Financial Assistance Programs (StuFAPs) composed of scholarships, grants-in-aid and loans totaling 58,155 slots in the amount of P997-M in AY 2013-2014, ballooned nearly seven times to 391,817 slots in AY 2014-2015 amounting to P4.87-B, testing the carrying capacity of the agency.
With the passage of the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) through Republic Act No. 10687 which was signed in October 2015 by President Benigno S. Aquino III, all government scholarship and grants-in-aid programs will be harmonized and unified. This is expected to further promote equity as well as rationalize access to quality higher and technical education for students in need. The implementation of UniFAST is also expected to improve the delivery of student financial assistance.
Finally, the Commission welcomes any possible inquiry on the matter as an opportunity to set the record straight.
Issued this 15th day of January 2016 at the Higher Education Development Center building, C.P. Garcia Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City.
Patricia B. Licuanan, Ph.D.