The Department of Labor and Employment miscarried P815 million in funding meant to provide emergency jobs and livelihood support to thousands of disadvantaged Filipinos desperately looking for gainful work, according to the Commission on Audit.
The DoLE also deprived thousands of working students P32.3 million in stipends under the Special Program for the Employment of Students, said the CoA report , copy of which was made available to members of Congress, in connection with ongoing deliberations on the DoLE’s proposed budget for 2019.
Affected by the failure of the DoLE to effectively use allocated funds was a key program dubbed as “Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers [TUPAD],” or the cash-for-work Emergency Employment Program.
When sought for comment on the CoA report, Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza, the senior deputy minority leader, rebuked the labor officials for their incompetence to fully implement the two DoLE’s vital emergency employment programs.
“When you are the department tasked to promote employment, and yet you neglect to use available funding to provide temporary jobs to thousands of distressed Filipinos, then there is something very wrong with the way that agency is being run,” Atienza said.
In its report, the CoA said: “The [DoLE’s 2017] cash allocations of P2.541 billion for the implementation of projects transferred to regional offices were not fully utilized because the amount of P1.434 billion or 56.45 percent was transferred only in the last quarter of the year, thus not providing ample time for the projects to be adequately implemented which resulted in the non-utilization of P815.124 million or 32.07 percent of project funds at year-end.”
Atienza said the DoLE could have invested the P815 million to mobilize thousands of able-bodied but jobless Filipinos to help manually dredge clogged up rice farm irrigation channels in the provinces.
“Rice harvests are on the decline partly because farms are not getting enough water when needed,” Atienza said, adding that many irrigation canals have been jammed by mud deposits and weed growth.
The upsurge in rice prices since January has been attributed to tight supply amid falling harvests and rising consumption of the staple.
“The DoLE could have hit two birds with one stone had it recruited laborers to clean up irrigation canals under the cash-for-work plan in coordination with local governments. It could have created temporary jobs while boosting rice farm productivity,” Atienza said.
The CoA report also reprimanded the DoLE for failing to pay P32.3 million worth of stipends to thousands of working students under the SPES.
“The 38-day process cycle time for payment of the 40 percent DoLE counterpart of the student salaries resulted in the non-payment of stipends of P32.3 million thereby delaying the income augmentation of poor student-beneficiaries to keep them in school and finish their education pursuant to Republic Act 10917 [the law creating the SPES],” the CoA said.
The SPES is a public-private employment bridging program for students aged 15 to 30, particularly those who are poor, to encourage them to complete their schooling by giving them the opportunity to work and acquire new skills during the summer or Christmas vacations.
Under the program, the private firms who employ the students pay for 60 percent of their salaries, while the DoLE pays for the balance.
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