How politicking mars an agency’s operation

Published by rudy Date posted on April 15, 2009

The good news is that the Technical Education & Skills Development Authority is launching an on-the-spot-hiring fair for laid-off workers and new grads. TESDA will screen participants if qualified for training — and daily allowance of P60 for tyros and P150 for experienced.

The bad news is … well, TESDA has lots. Starting with its purchase of seven school buses — emblazoned on each side with giant-size pictures of director general Augusto Syjuco, his wife Iloilo congresswoman Judy and President Arroyo, and the caption “Serbisyo Syjuco” — smacks of wasteful electioneering. Syjuco reportedly is running for senator in May 2010, so the name-face recall gimmick is crass exploitation of loopholes in laws that allow campaigning only 90 days before Election Day. The question thus begs answering: are the taxpayer-financed buses really needed, or are they as useless as Metro Manila chair Bayani Fernando’s presidentially aspiring photos all over trees and billboards outside his jurisdiction? And if Syjuco drumbeaters insist, as they surely will, that the buses are necessary, another question arises: how much would TESDA have saved had it just painted the buses plain?

The bus publicity trick raises suspicion if the TESDA job fairs starting on Friday too are in aid not of employment but election. And it’s only one of many careless agency activities. The 2007 Commission on Audit report listed more. There was the low graduation rate of 28 percent and hiring rate of 35 percent, from the targeted 90 percent in a P811-million vocational program for 350,000 trainees. Too, the disadvantageous revenue sharing with three private training firms, from which TESDA got only P985,000 or in return for free use of P724 million worth of its facilities and equipment. And there was the failure for two long years to use P23-million worth of training gear, because of defective parts, missing English user manuals, and incompatible voltage. Plus, the overpriced purchase of P26 million worth of food for the TESDA main office canteen in Taguig City, from unqualified suppliers.

The agency mismanagement even looked absurd. There was no effort to make the dormitory manager officially receipt and account for collected fees. Nor was the dormitory staff required to check if departing guests had already paid. A five-star Manila hotel was paid P2 million for snacks with 1,501 town mayors, although only 291 actually showed up. A full payment of P29 million was made for Internet pre-paid cards, even though the provider failed to deliver most of the contracted services. Another P18.4 million was misspent printing unnecessary “song-hits”, posters, calendars, brochures and booklets. The central and some regional offices overpaid P850,000 in allowances and bonuses. Other units had unliquidated cash advances. Officers charged P4 million in meals against operating instead of representation budgets. Personal long-distance phone calls totaling P200,000 were not collected from them.

Other acts were downright criminal. TESDA bought P1.21 million worth of computer tables without competitive bidding. Another eight units were purchased separately instead of bulk, as the Procurement Reform Act requires. About P10.6 million in central and regional disbursements went unexplained. And P8.4 million unbudgeted goods and services were bought.

TESDA managers are not all crooked. Some of them do denounce the misrule. For doing so, they get thrown to the hinterlands or are fired. –Jarius Bondoc, Philippine Star

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