Why can’t DLSU pay on time? Orgs, FAO point fingers

Administrators and stakeholders seem to be on different pages when discussing DLSU’s payables, but all acknowledge that procedural issues need to be resolved.

A year-long investigation by The LaSallian found that student organizations and external suppliers alike faced difficulties in receiving the cash owed to them by the University, whether for student activities or for merchandise orders. 

One vendor saw P400,000 worth of orders accumulate in limbo, while a student organization executive revealed they have transactions that have been pending since 2019.  But the Finance and Accounting Office (FAO) tells a different story: No pending transactions lie in their records, suggesting that the delays sit not with them but with the organizations, who admitted to repeatedly resubmitting their documents.

Behind all this is a supposed backlog, one that extends back to even before the pandemic, raising fears that declining confidence among suppliers might reduce the University’s reputation to one of a delinquent customer.

So, where’s the money?

Based on the University’s audited financial statements, which The LaSallian obtained from the Securities and Exchange Commission, accounts payables have soared over the years, from P134 million in 2015 to P409 million in 2022. According to their notes to the financial statements, these payables include “refunds to students, payable for the contracted services received, procurement of supplies, and other purchases made during the year.”

However, this does not mean DLSU cannot afford to settle them. In analyzing the University’s liquidity, the writers found that the current ratio has been above 1.00 for at least the past eight years, which suggests that the institution can pay its short-term obligations. The acid-test ratio, a more conservative metric, gave similar results, with the figure at 1.00 in 2022.

The issue, then, is not financial but procedural. These long delays have frustrated external suppliers, who have already incurred costs to deliver materials and services but are left in the dark about their remuneration. 

A myriad of factors from systems to payments remain to be a work in progress to streamline procurement processes.
A myriad of factors from systems to payments remain to be a work in progress to streamline procurement processes.

Boni*, a former finance executive in an accredited DLSU student organization, recalls dealing with disgruntled vendors. She adds that one prospective supplier seemed hesitant during canvassing when they discovered that the project head came from DLSU. 

“We never really had trouble procuring the necessary materials that we needed for a specific event,” says Bob*, another former finance executive. “The problem usually…comes to the payment of the said items.” 

“Working with the DLSU offices has been a whirlwind of emotions,” laments Jenny*, a representative from one external vendor who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “It can be quite stressful as a supplier because you never know when the next payout will be.”

This uncertainty, she adds, has also “put a strain” on her company’s ability to meet other financial obligations. As of May 2023, DLSU had yet to pay P400,000 worth of delivered merchandise, with one of its payables to Jenny outstanding since 2019. By December, their pending receivables were reduced to “around 60 percent.” Of that amount, 20 percent came from receivables from 2019 to 2022, while 80 percent was from 2023 alone. 

Wilson*, an incumbent finance executive of another student organization, says that Office of Student Leadership Involvement, Formation and Empowerment (SLIFE) has prioritized settling payables to external suppliers from the last AY, including those from her predecessor. 

However, what was not given priority were payables to students. These, Wilson expounds, were mostly expenses shouldered by students who expected to be refunded later on through the petty cash fund. Some of these have been outstanding since 2020, and complaints were appearing online as late as February 2023.
Jez Ulpindo, the Council of Student Organizations (CSO) executive vice chairperson for finance, even had to respond to one of the many DLSU Freedom Wall posts demanding reimbursements for the money students shelled out for their projects.

‘Choke points,’ turnover problems

The LaSallian approached FAO regarding these concerns. Disbursement Head Lapurisima Paras explains that they immediately process requests submitted on the Business Process Management Software (BPMS), which handles transactions like cash advances and petty cash replenishments. “As of now, wala kaming outstanding,” she stresses, adding that any pending transactions organizations claim they have are perhaps not logged
on BPMS.

Controller Jirk Jansen Miranda also highlights existing “choke points,” such as how the responsibility of submitting these requests rests on only one person per office.

“Now, if you have 50 organizations organizing 50 events in one month…All of these, kailangan i-input sa system, but isang tao lang ‘yan, talagang hindi feasible,” elaborates Dean of Student Affairs (DSA) Dr. Christine Ballada.

(All of these need to be inputted into the system, but only one person is in charge of that, so it’s really not feasible.)

Ballada also intuits that finance executives who vacate their posts in the middle of their term might also be a problem, specifically due to no proper turnover. “Sometimes the finance people themselves…find it too overwhelming…especially during the pandemic,” she furthers. 

Paras corroborates this, noting that several cash advances during the pandemic were not liquidated and that reaching out to the officers was a challenge especially since some have already graduated.

Ulpindo attested to The LaSallian last year that CSO was working on resolving transactions from Academic Year (AY) 2019-2020. “We already started consolidating these pending transactions by having a consultation between SLIFE and the organizations, and a list of procedures that need to be done first to be able to have a smooth process this academic year,” he bared. Present officers like Wilson confirm that her predecessor had resubmitted documents to SLIFE, though they had yet to be resolved.

However, a Help Desk Announcement last January laid down a definitive deadline of March 2, after which unpaid billings would not be recognized without proper justification. Paras estimated that SLIFE logged more than 500 transactions related to these backlogs, which Ballada reveals organizations frantically tried to close out. “They had to dig some of their files because some of these are hard copies. ‘Di pa tayo fully BPMS nung time nayun,” she narrates.

(We weren’t fully on BPMS at the time.)

Efforts at removing bottlenecks

To address these recurring issues, FAO and Office of Student Affairs agreed to change how their offices handle depository accounts, or funds held in trust (FHIT). SLIFE Director Christopher Villanueva explains that as of Term 1 of AY 2023-2024, FHITs have been “deregulated”—as in student organizations no longer need to go through the FAO and the Supply Chain Management Office (SCMO) if they intend to draw from the fund.

Traditionally, student organizations procure supplies such as merchandise, food, and other materials for their projects through SCMO. Under the new scheme, organizations instead need to seek approval from their respective office director if the cost is P10,000 or less, or from the DSA if it is no more than P100,000. Beyond that amount, a Lasallian Mission Bids Committee, led by the Associate DSA and composed of at least two directors under the Office of Student Affairs, will have to approve the purchase alongside the DSA. Once approved, the organization can withdraw the cash from FAO. “We’re just acting like a bank,” Miranda says. Though he reveals that the initial plan was to completely offload the financial management to the organizations by setting up their own bank accounts, the organizations do not have a separate legal personality. 

Because of this, Miranda explains that “We [still] need to protect the name of our University and its reputation, kaya medyo may oversight pa rin tayo. But we’re also trying to give independence and strike
a balance.”

For Wilson, she assures that finance transactions are being queued through their recent implementation of finance monitoring systems that help keep track and provide transparency on the progress of transactions with external suppliers. 

At Jenny’s end, she continuously coordinates with the involved parties for updates and acknowledges the efforts and developments in the existing processes “with regards to transparency and organization when they implemented the Oracle supplier portal.” “We really hope they fix whatever it is that’s causing this (delay) so we can continue to provide our services to DLSU with ease,” laments Jenny.

*Names with asterisks (*) are pseudonyms.

This article was published in The LaSallian‘s March 2024 issue. To read more, visit

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