Philippines gaming regulator PAGCOR has hit back at claims it granted excessive rewards and allowances to its executive staff while underpaying taxes, insisting it no longer embarks on certain practices and is entitled to determine its own allowances.
The Commission on Audit released its annual audit report last week which found that PAGCOR had granted cash and gift rewards to officials worth a total of Php12.5 million in 2017 as well as another Php13 million worth of 18-carat gold rings to long-serving employees, which was “in excess of the amount allowed” by law.
In a statement, PAGCOR denied the accusations, insisting that it had stopped granting the gold rings in 2016 under order of Chairman Andrea Domingo.
However, having initially denied that it was paying allowances above the allowed amount, Domingo revealed on Friday that the regulator was now seeking clarification as to what is allowed by law.
“We are seeking clarification from the President if this should go on,” Domingo said in a media interview.
The audit report suggested there is ongoing disagreement between the COA and PAGCOR as to the gaming regulator’s requirements, with a number of rewards for “service excellence” granted to officials without submitting details to the government first for review and approval. The COA also said that PAGCOR had exceeded its authorized limits in regards to multiple perks including a Representation and Transportation Allowance, the Cost of Living Allowance, car plans and financial loans to PAGCOR officials.
Domingo denied those accusations, stating, “There were no additional benefits. We only retained what was implemented by the last administration because of the Presidential Directive as amended in 2008 by PAGCOR. We didn’t add any new benefits.”
PAGCOR is also accused of underpaying taxes due to wrongly calculating the remittance owed to the Bureau of Treasury on income solely from gaming operations rather than from “aggregate gross earnings” over the course of seven years from 2011 to 2017, resulting in an annual shortfall of around Php3 billion. In another instance, PAGCOR was found to have underpaid the Philippine Sports Commission by Php1.63 billion in 2017.
The regulator said in its statement that it had already submitted a clarification request regarding how its tax should be calculated to the Supreme Court and was awaiting further information.