COA: Poor families scammed in Bicol livelihood projects

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    POOR families under government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in the Bicol Region were victimized by irregularities attending the implementation of the Department Social Welfare and Development’s sustainable livelihood projects (SLPs).

    In its 2019 report on the DSWD, the Commission on Audit said it found irregularities in its review of 41 SLPs launched in various municipalities in the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, and Masbate.

    The projects included cash assistance, free skills training programs, and distributions of kits/tools entrusted to project development officers (PDOs) of DSWD Region 5.

    Auditors found that many of those enrolled in the projects were from families considered the “poorest of the poor” who are receiving monthly stipends from the government under the conditional cash transfer program.

    Fear of being booted out of the government program made them easy pickings.

    “Beneficiaries who were usually Pantawid members never hesitated to sign the CAP (cash assistance payroll) as instructed by the implementing PDO because thy were afraid that non-cooperation will cause their removal from the 4Ps,” the audit team said.

    The signatures were submitted as proof that the cash assistance was duly distributed as intended. However, face-to-face interview with the supposed recipients exposed the scam.

    “Payroll for the individual cash assistance was signed in full by the beneficiaries but the whole amount was never given to them,” the auditors said.

    In the end, those who were supposed to receive government help ended up spending more.
    “Only the allocated cost of either their food and transportation allowances for the who training duration or both was given to the participants. The cost of tuition, starter kits/tools, and assessment fees were allegedly collected for payment to the training institution or supplier,” the COA said.

    Based on the audit report, it was also the PDOs who identified and selected the training centers and the suppliers of kits and tools.

    But tracking them down proved next to impossible as auditors learned that most were no longer around to be interviewed. It turned out they were hired only on contractual status and the frequent turnover of personnel ensured their paper trails are too thin to follow.