Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - By Melvin Gas­con @melvin­gas­conINQ —WITH A REPORT FROMJODEEA. AGONCILLO

The gov­ern­ment lost about P10 bil­lion last year due to the fail­ure of the Philip­pine Char­ity Sweep­stakes Of­fice (PCSO) to col­lect re­mit­tances from op­er­a­tors of the Small Town Lot­tery (STL), the Com­mis­sion on Au­dit (COA) said in a report.

The PCSO al­lowed 71 STL op­er­a­tors across the coun­try to re­mit to the gov­ern­ment less than what they had promised monthly, the COA said in its au­dit report on the PCSO for last year, which was made pub­lic on Thurs­day.

The PCSO did not im­pose sanc­tions against erring agent cor­po­ra­tions de­spite their vi­o­la­tions of STL rules, re­sult­ing in losses to the gov­ern­ment, the au­dit body said.

Sus­pen­sion, can­cel­la­tion

“It has been ob­served that the said pe­nal pro­vi­sions were not im­ple­mented by the con­cerned de­part­ment/of­fi­cials con­sid­er­ing that ma­jor­ity of the non­com­pli­ant AACs (au­tho­rized agent cor­po­ra­tions) have been in­cur­ring short­falls in their PMRRs (pre­sumed monthly re­tail re­ceipts) for sev­eral months al­ready but none was sub­jected to any of the above-stated sanc­tions,” it said.

An­ti­dote to ‘jueteng’

The PCSO is a gov­ern­men­towned and -con­trolled cor­po­ra­tion tasked to raise and pro­vide funds for char­i­ties through var­i­ous lot­tery and gam­ing schemes.

One of its main prod­ucts, the STL, has been touted as a gov­ern­ment an­ti­dote to the “jueteng” num­bers racket. STL, how­ever, has also been widely sus­pected to serve as a cover for jueteng.

Man­dated to re­mit

Un­der the PCSO rules, the AACs, or the des­ig­nated STL op­er­a­tors, are man­dated to re­mit their PMRR. If they failed to do so, they could be sus­pended or their li­censes can­celed.

The COA urged the PCSO to strictly im­pose the penal­ties “to en­sure timely and ac­cu­rate re­mit­tances of the amount due.”

PCSO spokesper­son Flo­rante Solmerin de­clined to give any com­ment, say­ing Gen­eral Man­ager Alexan­der Ba­lu­tan had yet to dis­cuss the COA report with the PCSO’s board of direc­tors.

The report rec­om­mended the im­me­di­ate col­lec­tion of the re­mit­tance short­falls amount­ing to P4.049 bil­lion from the con­cerned AACs.

The PCSO also in­curred losses of P4.3 bil­lion from the on­line Keno gam­ing op­er­a­tions due to ex­ces­sive pay­outs.

Probe Keno also

The PCSO must probe the Keno op­er­a­tions be­cause they con­tin­ued to in­cur deficits, and find new ways to stop their losses, the COA said.

The au­dit body also ques­tioned why the PCSO granted 30 of its 85 AACs the au­thor­ity to op­er­ate de­spite their fail­ure to fully pay the cash bond re­quire­ment for their STL fran­chise.

Of the 30, 19 have a to­tal out­stand­ing bal­ance of P294.5 million.

On a sep­a­rate is­sue, the COA said it is­sued an “ad­verse find­ing” on the PCSO due to what it said were nu­mer­ous dis­crep­an­cies and bloated fig­ures in the agency’s ac­counts.

It said it found as many as 134 ac­counts amount­ing to P22.3 bil­lion that were “grossly mis­stated.” Also grossly mis­stated were the agency’s “cash and cash equiv­a­lents” to­tal­ing P10.3 bil­lion, it added.

BIG BUCKS IN SMALL­TOWN A Small Town Lot­tery draw is held at a fran­chise holder’s of­fice in Apalit, Pam­panga prov­ince.

Alexan­der Ba­lu­tan

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