By Ben R. Rosario
Some 115 scholars who graduated from the state-run Philippine Science High School system have been asked to refund government some P18.89 million for reneging on their pledge to take up science and technology courses in college.
In the recently released 2016 annual audit report of the PSHS, the Commission on Audit (COA) also called for a review of the scholarship policy to avoid inequitable distribution of benefits for high school scholars.
The COA recommended that scholarship contracts between the PSHS and students must now contain provisions that would allow the school to take legal action against scholars and their parents for any breach of the agreement.
The COA made the recommendation after finding that 115 scholars allegedly violated their scholarship agreements with the PSHS by taking up non-science and technology courses in college.
The scholars completed their secondary education from Ilocos Regional Campus; Western Visayas Campus, Eastern Visayas Campus, Central Mindanao Campus, and Southern Mindanao Campus.
“As of December 31, 2016, there were at least 115 scholars who have not complied with the requirements of the Scholarship Agreement, especially the provision on the pursuit of a university degree in science and technology, hence, should be required to refund the scholarship benefits totaling P18,904,792.40,” COA said.
The state audit agency said the PSHS should demand refund of the total allowances and other expenses government spent for their high school education.
In recommending the inclusion of provisions allowing PSHS to pursue legal remedies in the scholarship agreements, COA noted that the school management had admitted having limited means to impose sanctions against scholars who ignore the demand for refund.
“In the absence of provisions in the Scholarship Agreement on the legal remedies that may be pursued by the System towards the recovery of the monetary value of the scholarship due to breach of agreement, the receivables from defaulting scholars remained uncollected which deprives the government of funds that could had been used to finance the scholarship of those who are willing to pursue science courses or otherwise be utilized for other government priority programs and projects,” COA said.
In the same report, the COA said a review of the scholarship qualification so students of the Central Visayas campus indicated that the qualification of 18 students “was not consistent with the Guidelines for Scholarship Categorization” under the PSHS system.
State auditors said 17 of the 18 were overpaid a total P160,000 while one was underpaid by P10,000 under the guidelines on the socio-economic status of students.
In the case of the Western Visayas Campus, audit examiners disclosed that nine randomly selected students who had been categorized full scholars were “seen to have been living a comfortable life” with “some having motor vehicles and other appliances/gadgets that contributes to a life of convenience,” COA noted.