MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Audit (COA) has called out the National Book Development Board (NBDB) for failing to use interest income from its trust fund to provide publishing grants to Filipino book authors.
In a report filed last year and released on Friday, state auditors said the council currently has accumulated interest income of 14,140,333.08 pesos from its National Trust Fund for the development of the book, untapped since 2019.
Broken down, the 14.14 million pula consisted of 4.87 million pula in 2019, 4.82 million pula in 2020 and 4.45 million pula in 2021.
The COA said “no grants have been awarded for three years since 2019 for the support and promotion of Filipino fatherhood.” She further noted that the purpose of establishing the trust fund was precisely to support Filipino fatherhood, especially in the field of science and technology.
The “purpose of awarding prizes to fund…eligible Filipino authors” is mandated by Republic Act No. 9521, or the National Book Development Trust Fund Act, the COA said. .
Under this 2009 law, a trust fund “is established exclusively for the support and promotion of Philippine authorship, particularly in the fields of science and technology and in areas where books by local authors are few or non-existent”.
The law, which identifies the BDBC as trustee of the trust fund, further states that its “interest…shall be awarded in the form of grants to promote Filipino authorship and to support the completion of local manuscripts or research work for their publish”.
The ACO recommended that the board “create/relaunch relevant programs…to ensure the effective and efficient use of interest income from the fund, so that the purpose [for its] the establishment … will be achieved.
The NBDB has also been tasked with submitting to state auditors its final updated guidelines on the implementation of the fund.
The agency, in response to the COA, said there had been no activity last year in relation to the trust fund, adding that it “needs[ed] to come up with a new recovery plan” for the book publishing industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other than no publication grants awarded, state auditors found no other projects or activities in 2021 related to the trust fund.
That year, the COA also noted that the board could not form an advisory committee to evaluate manuscript proposals.
The board said it submitted its draft timeline and draft guidelines for the use of the fund in April, which the COA acknowledged in its report.
The auditors also said that the NBDB otherwise used its 97.37 million peso budget last year, leaving only 1.04 million pesos unspent.
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