PASIG CITY, August 13, 2019 – In response to the Commission on Audit’s (COA) observations, the Department of Education (DepEd) reaffirms its strong commitment to implement and adopt the audit recommendations to improve the Department’s systems and strengthen its internal and external controls.

The Department has given COA its rejoinder during its exit conference with COA in early August, resulting in a positive and reassuring engagement that enables DepEd to institute new policies and to update, simplify, and codify its internal rules as part of its financial reform initiatives.

The DepEd likewise clarifies that the Audit Observation Memorandum (AOM) it received is a written notification, which is still subject to the explanation and justification by the agency, and is different from a Notice of Suspension or a Notice of Disallowance. COA Circular 2009-006 (Prescribing the use of the Rules and Regulations on Settlement of Accounts) defines an AOM as “deficiencies noted in the audit of accounts, operations or transactions and requiring comments thereto and/or submission of documentary and other information requirements within a reasonable period.” Thus, an AOM is preliminary and non-conclusive.

Hence, the Department shares its responses to the AOM to duly inform the education stakeholders of the agency’s commitment to pursue reforms in the education sector.

Buffer stock of learning materials
While the Department acknowledges the perennial challenge in the main provision of learning materials (LMs) to certain grade levels and on particular subject areas due to bottlenecks in development, printing, and distribution, it remains committed to its policy to provide every learner per grade level in all public schools with a complete set of textbooks, and every teacher a complete set of teaching manuals that complement the textbooks.

To address this, DepEd continues to call for and institute reforms that will prevent bureaucratic procedures from hampering the delivery of materials and services to learners and teachers. In fact, in 2017, DepEd called for a thorough review of Republic Act No. 8047 (Book Publishing Development Act), which prohibits the Department from developing manuscripts for textbooks, and printing or procuring of such when private publishers are unable to meet the demand; and of Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act), which affects the procurement of textbooks that need to be aligned with the K to 12 curriculum.

Meanwhile, the buffer stock pertains to 7% of the completed development, printing, and delivery of LMs for the projected enrollment of the school year. This small portion is allotted in times of calamities, as replacement of old or worn-out books, and for newly established schools and increased enrollment, among others. While part of the procured textbooks is delivered directly to school districts, a large chunk is still delivered to the Central Office (CO) warehouses and distributed to regions.

As for the procurement of textbooks, the Department does so on a centralized basis to avail of economy of scale. Cognizant of such policy’s effect on the timely distribution of textbooks, DepEd’s Bureau of Learning Resources (BLR) is revisiting the policies and guidelines of procurement and distribution. The Department is also looking into the improvement of monitoring and accounting of textbooks vis-à-vis delivery.

It should also be noted that in 2018, the Department has caught up in its distribution with 76% issuance compared to 15% issuance in 2016. The BLR is expediting the distribution of textbooks and LMs to the regions, and is expecting to complete the distribution of these buffer stocks by the end of 2019. The Department is amending aspects of the policy to make the buffer stock available to all schools division offices (SDOs), with only 0.05% maintained at the CO. The distribution fund has been downloaded to the SDOs, and the forwarding and handling of the remaining 6.95% of the buffer stock are undergoing procurement.

Correcting errors in textbooks
In its effort to continuously address the persistent problem of errors in textbooks, DepEd’s BLR has conducted three workshops involving academicians and DepEd validators to validate comments and recommendations from the regions regarding learning resources and textbooks for Kindergarten to Grade 10. Validated findings, description of errors found, and recommendations on how to correct these will comprise the “notes of teachers” that the Department shall issue through a memorandum to the regions.

Furthermore, the Department also seeks to expand its authority in view of the R.A. 8047, which lodged the mandate to write and print textbooks with private publishers, and confined DepEd’s mandate to “preparing the minimum learning competencies, and/or prototypes and other specifications for books and/or manuscripts called for; testing, evaluating, selecting, and approving the manuscripts or books to be submitted by the publishers for multiple adoption.” Even as the Department recognizes the policy of promoting competition in offering this exercise to the private sector, it also expresses concern that accountability is dispersed among different stakeholders.

Ways forward
The Department assures its stakeholders that its direction remains toward the development and implementation of reforms in the education sector. Guided by the 10-Point Agenda of Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones, DepEd is steadfast in its commitment to address the challenges – persistent or otherwise – toward the delivery of quality basic education for all.