FORMER representative Mayo Almario (2nd District, Davao Oriental) urged Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) to immediately improve or totally scrap its Special Training for Employment Program (STEP).
Almario expressed disappointment that Tesda continuously failed to properly implement STEP, which would have benefitted millions of Filipinos.
Launched in 2014, STEP targets beneficiaries from the disadvantaged sectors, such as workers from the informal sector, out-of-school youth, and victims of calamities and disasters, by providing them with short-term training on competencies and skills that address the needs of their communities. Under the program’s guidelines, scholars are given allowance during training and starter toolkits upon completion of a STEP training course.
In January 2019, a complaint was filed with the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) against 11 agency officials by their fellow Tesda personnel who said there was rigging in the conduct of bidding for ₱1.4 billion worth of toolkits to favor ACMI, a Tesda contractor.
In November of the same year, a Commission on Audit (COA) report showed that only 5.64 percent, or 2,451 out of 75,004 graduates of STEP had jobs. A far cry from their 65 percent target employment rate funded with ₱2.103 billion that year. The budget for the program is based on the scholarship allocation plan submitted by each region, province, and district as their identified available opportunities, the presence of new and emerging industries, and the presence of key employment indicators.
According to Almario, the complaint has been the suspicion of many as to why toolkits that should be given to the trainees upon completion of their courses are actually turned over to them as late as a year or more after they have graduated from their programs. He said that very often, TESDA distributes toolkits to the graduates already in the middle of the following year after the actual graduation from the training. As a result, some graduates have already forgotten their learned skills, are no longer interested, or cannot be located anymore.
Tesda admitted it conducted biddings for procuring the tools only when funds were released. Making matters worse, Almario said, is Tesda’s policy of centrally conducting the procurement process for the toolkits.
“Something is cooking up in Tesda’s Central Office. Why do they procure these very ordinary and simple STEP toolkits such as wheelbarrows, sprayers, hammers, and weighing scales in its Central Office and unnecessarily spend millions in transporting them to their regional and provincial offices for distribution when the procurement can be done by their regional offices? Even if there are discounts for bulk procurement, it is negated by the cost of transport and the waste of time in transporting nationwide,” Almario said.
The complaint filed by Tesda personnel against their own and the COA findings have not taught Tesda anything as it continues to this day its practice of centrally procuring the equipment.
The former congressman believes the intention of STEP is fundamentally good because it aids beneficiaries in developing skills and competencies and enables self-sufficiency and stability with more reliable sources of livelihood. However, he expressed dismay that the program has not reached its potential despite the huge budget allotment.
Almario concluded it is high time for Tesda to undertake genuine improvements in STEP or scrap it altogether.
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