P2.9M too much for teacher training, prizes

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Sunday, June 22, 2014


THE Cebu City Government may have spent its Special Education Fund (SEF) under the Local School Board on “inappropriate expenses” last year, government auditors said.

The Commission on Audit (COA) described the City’s expenses amounting to some P2.9 million charged to the SEF as excessive, irregular and unnecessary.

Of the amount, P1,161,094.20 paid for food and accommodations during the Don Sergio Osmeña Sr. Academic Awards, as well as for the rice given as door prizes during the Teachers’ Day Celebration last year.

A separate P1,242,900 was shelled out to pay for various items given as prizes of a raffle draw during the same celebration.

Close to P600,000 was also spent on seminars and trainings conducted for all the public school teachers in the city.

Section 272 of Republic Act 7160 provides that the SEF shall be allocated to operate and maintain public schools; build or repair school buildings, facilities and equipment; educational research, purchase of books and periodicals; and sports development, as determined by the school board.

In its 2013 annual audit report, COA said the holding of the awarding in the Waterfront Hotel and Casino, which it considered an expensive hotel, and the giving of door prizes during the teachers’ day celebration was unnecessary.

“There was no legal basis in the giving out of door prizes,” the report read.

In his letter attached as a supporting document for the payment to Waterfront Hotel, Mayor Michael Rama explained that the spending did not violate the Local Government Code because the “operation and maintenance of public schools” provision is broad enough to include “the expenses that redound to the benefit, particularly of the students and the public school system in general.”

However, COA emphasized that the holding of such an activity in an expensive venue disregards the prudence required of a public official and economy in the handling of government funds.

“The honoring of outstanding students can be held in a venue that reflects a decent and austere environment instead of a lavish one, which connotes an abundance of cash and that all needed services have been delivered and did not leave any school or student wanting in anything,” COA said.

The state auditors also considered the expenses incurred during the Effective Communication and Proper Handling of Media and Guests as “extravagant and excessive”.

The registration fee for each participant cost the City P1,300, which did not include meals.

A separate payment of P350 was needed for the meals of each participant.

Paragraph 3.2 of the National Budget Circular No. 486 states that registration fees or charges for participation in conventions and seminars, among others, shall not exceed P1,200 per day, per participant. Any amount beyond that shall be at the expense of the participants.

The City, in its comment integrated in the COA report, said the registration fee already covered the two-day seminar including the training kits, evaluation and school visitations for the sustainability of the program.

COA recommended that the City and school board officials explain and justify the expenditures.

It further asked the concerned office to properly assess the purpose of several activities.

COA is also asking the school board’s officials to refund the amount drawn from the SEF to buy some appliances, which were used as raffle prizes during the teachers’ day celebration.

Auditors found out that there was no document to support the legality of the purchase.

The report did not say what types of appliances were purchased.

“The above excessive and unnecessary disbursements could have been used to defray other operating expenses or finance priority programs of the local school board,” the report read. (RVC)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 22, 2014.

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