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Government Loses Millions Due to “Ghost Students” in Educational Voucher Program

Government Loses Millions Due to “Ghost Students” in Educational Voucher Program

The government faced a significant financial loss of approximately PHP 360 million due to over 19,000 “ghost students” who received vouchers from the Expanded Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (E-GASTPE) program, overseen by the Department of Education (DepEd).

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education, revealed this during a Senate hearing. He highlighted that private schools charged the government for students who could not be verified to exist, as there was no proof or documents to back up their enrollment.

This situation led Senator Gatchalian to question whether these individuals could be labeled as “ghost students.” However, Rodrick Edsel Malonzo, a Monitoring and Processing Officer at the Private Education Assistance Committee, currently refers to them as “undocumented students.”

Further investigations by the Commission on Audit (COA) found that in the 2016-2017 school year alone, 115 senior high school student beneficiaries were considered “ghost students” after they managed to secure vouchers twice within a single year. Imelda Celso from COA clarified that these cases were mainly due to errors in monitoring and listing the beneficiaries rather than the students being nonexistent.

The discovery has prompted calls for a refund of PHP 239 million to the voucher program for the amounts claimed for these undocumented students. Additionally, Senator Gatchalian estimated that there might be up to PHP 7 billion in leaks from the voucher program, which does not reach the intended students.

This situation has raised concerns about the efficiency and integrity of government educational assistance programs, prompting a closer look to prevent future financial losses and ensure that aid reaches its rightful beneficiaries.