Rice dole in schools a burden to parents


By Jocelyn Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:59:00 06/09/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The government’s food-for-school program has become more of a burden than a relief to parents and teachers because of poor distribution, according to the Commission on Audit (COA).

In a report, the COA said students, parents and school officials had to spend personal money to transport rice doles from National Food Authority (NFA) drop-off points to their schools and that much of the staple they received was of “poor quality.”

In the 24 schools in Northern Mindanao (Region 10) alone, students had to shell out P30 each while parents and teachers P500 to P1,000 each to cover various expenses in transporting sacks of rice from NFA delivery points to their schools last year, the COA said.

In the Ilocos (Region 1), 825 parents of schoolchildren entitled to receive the rice doles were found to have spent a total of P83,240 just to haul the supplies from the depots.

The Department of Education first launched the program during school year 2004-05 in a bid to arrest the rising incidence of malnutrition among public elementary students and improve school attendance.

Under the program, each elementary student is provided a kilo of rice each day for five days. Sometimes, school officials prefer to distribute five kilos of rice on a Friday or the last school day of the week to save time.

In its 2007 report on the DepEd, the COA said P36.9 million worth of rice (or 1,808,127.39 kilos) was delivered by the NFA to selected drops instead of the designated storage areas of 456 school-beneficiaries nationwide.

It noted that this was contrary to the agreement between the NFA and DepEd, which stated that the food agency must ensure that the rice allocations were delivered directly to the schools. In cases where rice was delivered to drop-off centers, the NFA will shoulder the expenses for the final stretch to the school recipients, the agreement stated.

Losses to pests, thieves

But a survey conducted by the COA revealed that in most instances, the rice subsidies were instead delivered to drop-off points “selected at will” by the NFA delivery personnel on grounds of poor roads and long distances.

“Noncompliance with the DepEd guidelines … resulted in unnecessary expenses and waste of time and effort by concerned school personnel and parent-pupil beneficiaries,” the COA said.

It further noted that the lack of adequate storage rooms in target schools in at least eight regions, including Metro Manila, exposed the rice doles to pests and thieves.

A total of 101 sacks and 23 kilos of rice were spoiled by pests while 62 sacks and 25 kilos of the staple were lost to robbers.

Rat-infested warehouses

Some of the rice allocations were found kept in rat-infested and dirty, dilapidated school bodegas and in storerooms with heavy-duty padlocks.

Thieves carted away 435 kilos of rice from Julian V. Antonio Elementary School in Bolo, Masbate City, last year. Four elementary schools in the Division of Capiz reported that 290 kilos of NFA rice worth P5,800 were stolen.

Robbery incidents were also reported in schools in Bohol, Eastern Samar, Dipolog City and Mutia town in Zamboanga del Norte, among others. The COA described the loss as minimal.

Not iron-fortified

The government spent double for the program last school year from P1.3 billion covering school years 2004 to 2006 to P3.4 billion, it noted.

The COA also found the NFA to have distributed some P4.5 million worth of rice (238,625 kilos) that was not “iron-fortified” and was “poorly sealed” in six regions last year.

These areas were identified as Albay and Catanduanes in Bicol (Region 5); Antique and Capiz in Western Visayas (Region 6); Leyte and Eastern Samar in Eastern Visayas (Region 8); Zamboanga Sibugay in Western Mindanao (Region 9); Davao del Norte in Southern Mindanao (Region 11) and all the division offices in Caraga (Region 13).

Under the provisions of the program, one sack of 50-kg iron-fortified rice should be repacked into one-kilogram bags to facilitate distribution. But if the rice variety was not available, the NFA could give out well-milled rice as a substitute.

“Most deliveries by the NFA were well-milled rice instead of the iron-fortified rice required under the program guidelines,” the COA said, “weakening the attainment of the program’s objective of improving the nutritional status of the pupil-beneficiaries.”

Insects, weevils and other pests, staple wires and a foul smell were detected in the rice distributed in Eastern Visayas. Schools there had been asked to return the staple.(PDI)

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