TWO PICTURES in stark contrast have been drawn about one agency: the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

The first, a none-too-flattering one, by the Commission on Audit (COA), which speaks of “deficiencies” by the dozen in the agency’s implementation of its massive training and scholarship programs.

The second, glowing and pretty, by President Benigno S. Aquino III, who has heaped generous praise on TESDA on many occasions, citing it as an exemplar of performance in the executive branch, in terms of the volume of scholars that it has trained in recent years.

Among other things, COA says that there have been many “deficiencies” in TESDA’s scholarship programs funded with pork monies and awarded to private training institutes, including missed number of target beneficiaries, overpricing of supplies and training courses, contracts awarded without bidding, improper selection of beneficiaries, seminar attendance sheets of doubtful integrity, and the holding of different seminars on the same day and time for the same dubious beneficiaries, but at different locations.

Read: Part 5 of our series on “Pork a la Gloria, Pork a la PNoy”:

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COA’s 2013 annual agency report on TESDA said such deficiencies were particularly present in its implementation of two major programs that had been expanded using lumpsum monies that had been loaded up in TESDA’s budget that year: Training for Work Scholarship Program (TWSP) and Cash-for-Training Project (C4TP).

The report also revealed what the state auditors said was “non-compliance” in the implementation of TWSP by TESDA’s partner Technical Vocational Institutions (TVIs) or partner training entities from the private sector.

For 2012 and 2013, data from COA and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed that TESDA received a total of P427.09 million in PDAF from legislators, including 19 who gave their pork monies to projects implemented by at least 11 apparently favored TVIs.

TWSP had been funded under TESDA’s regular budget in previous years. In 2012, TWSP was expanded, while C4TP was started as “a program funded from DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) designed to focus on the potential contributions of disadvantaged youth to nation building by engaging them in gainful employment by providing relevant, high quality and efficient technical education and skills development by TESDA.”

In 2012, TESDA received additional monies from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of legislators. It also got Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds that year, one sum being its own DAP allocation, and another representing a big portion of the DAP assigned to the DSWD.

But it was when TESDA had expanded too fast and its budget had grown too fat that COA found major discrepancies in project implementation. This was even as COA cited that TESDA had reported good to outstanding results on its “key performance indicators” – i.e., number of scholars trained, graduated, assessed, and employed, and number of seminars conducted – in 2013.

In the end, the picture that emerges is that while TESDA has been striving to surpass the targets of its regular programs, its more generously funded training tracks have gotten caught in a web of conflicting interests – politics, commerce, and corruption – involving some TVIs favored by a number of legislators, and favored further by some TESDA officers at the central, regional, and provincial offices.

It’s an image that TESDA Director General Emmanuel Joel Villanueva obviously doesn’t cherish. Speaking with PCIJ by phone recently, he said that his problem with COA is it does not update its prior year’s reports to reflect agency action on its findings in subsequent months.

“Ang ano ko lang sa COA, every time they come out with report, they do not lift a finger to update the report and say naayos na. Hindi raw nila policy ‘yun.. (My concern with COA is, every time they come out with a report, they do not a lift a finger to update the report and say that the problem has been addressed. They say it’s not their policy),” Villanueva said

He also said that despite COA’s adverse findings on TESDA in COA’s report for 2013, “since I took over, at no time has COA issued a notice of disallowance or notice of suspension on me or TESDA.” Villanueva became TESDA chief in July 2010.

COA found at least 11 TVIs non-compliant or with deficiencies in implementing TWSP: Asian Touch International Institute Inc.; Asian Spirit Career Foundation, Inc.; Meridian International College of Business, Arts and Technology; Phil-Best Entrepreneurs; Ilaw ng Bayan Foundation, Inc.; Informatics Computer Institute Valenzuela; I-Connect Solutions Tek Bok Inc.; Matuwid na Landas Foundation, Inc.; Serbisyong Pagmamahal Foundation, Inc.; Mechatronics Technologies, Inc.; and BSC Technological Institute, Inc.

PCIJ research on these TVIs reveals that two of them had already ceased operations in 2014, after cornering multimillion-peso contracts from TESDA. Two others have clear political connections, while at least two more also appear to have links with a Napoles-like network of dubious nongovernment organizations (NGOs). One TVI meanwhile was incorporated in the same year that it snagged multimillion-peso projects with TESDA. Three others are sister-firms that share the same set of directors and owners.

Altogether, according to COA and DBM reports, there were at least 19 legislators who enabled these TVIs to secure contracts with TESDA: Representatives Mar-Len Abigail Binay, Monique Yazmin Lagdameo, Ma. Rachel Arenas, Oscar G. Malapitan, Romero Federico S. Quimbo, William Irwin C. Tieng, Cinchona C. Cruz-Gonzales, Sigfrido R. Tinga, Sherwin N. Tugna, Antonio C. Alvarez, Victorino Dennis M. Socrates, Arnel M. Cerafica, Cesar V. Sarmiento, Tobias Reynald M. Tiangco, and Winston Castelo. — PCIJ, August 2015

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