Press Release
August 11, 2022

Hontiveros wants probe on P7B 'questionable releases' under CHED scholarship agency

Senator Risa Hontiveros is seeking a Senate probe on the implementation of the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST), after the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged almost P7 billion worth of 'questionable releases' under the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) scholarship agency.

"UniFAST is supposed to be the answer to the gap in education for millions of underprivileged youth. And yet the program is stained with suspicious overpayments and double reimbursements. Dapat todo-bantay tayo sa budget natin dito lalo na sa panahon na maraming nahihirapan magbayad ng tuition. This could be just the tip of the iceberg of dubious practices in CHED-UniFAST," Hontiveros said.

UniFAST is an attached agency under CHED meant to implement Republic Act No. 10931, or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.

In filed Senate Resolution No. 128, Hontiveros cited COA's report that UniFAST had P3.4 billion worth of delayed and non-submissions of billings and documents to state and universities and colleges (SUCs) and local universities and colleges (LUCs). Some submissions were delayed up to 3 years while others had no record of billing.

The resolution also revealed that UniFAST made P824 million worth of payments to SUCs and LUCs without official receipts.

"Nakaka-alarma na naglabas sila ng ganyang kalaking pera na walang tamang dokumento. Walang kahit anong ebidensya na kailangan ng agency magbayad, at walang ebidensya na binayaran nila. Nakakapagtaka. Surely recklessness at this level of billions of pesos is not acceptable for a government agency," the senator said.

"Lilinawin natin kung saan at sino ang nagkulang. It is our responsibility in Congress to guard against leakages that waste important resources needed by our schools and students," she added.

Hontiveros' resolution also revealed UniFAST's overpayment of P131 million to certain SUCs, and P251 million to already fully subsidized LUCs in direct violation of the RA10931. She said that the COA report is "enough to show that the agency's lapses need to be explained."

Also included in the almost P7 billion flagged by COA are P26.6 million of reimbursements of doubtful validity of tuition and school fees to the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines; duplicate entries of beneficiaries in billings of P141,550.00; P1 billion unimplemented and unreverted funds for the student loan program; P1.003 billion delayed release of financial benefits; P4.43 million double scholarship grants; and P200 million worth of unutilized allotments for tertiary education subsidy.

"For a country experiencing an education crisis, I am shocked by the billions we have been careless with. RA10931 is a leap towards our dreams of education for all. But it does nothing if the money doesn't reach our students and schools. In the midst of these harsh circumstances that have affected the education of a whole generation, our agencies must shine light on these plausibly shady practices," Hontiveros concluded.

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