Senate probe into Pagcor's 'questionable' ₱6-B contract with 3rd-party auditor sought

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 26) — Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel has filed a Senate Resolution (SR) urging the Blue Ribbon Committee to probe the state gaming regulator's ₱6-billion contract with a "questionable" third-party auditor.

It was revealed during a Senate Committee on Ways and Means hearing on Monday, Jan. 23, that the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) had awarded a ₱6-billion contract to Global ComRCI to audit the gross revenues of offshore gaming operators.

READ: Gatchalian hits Pagcor for questionable 3rd party auditor

"For the Senate Blue Ribbon to investigate this transaction in detail, we'll even go back to the negotiation stage. How come Pagcor chose this entity? Are we dealing with an established, reputable entity, a small entity, a fly-by-night entity?" he told CNN Philippines' The Source on Thursday.

Pimentel, through SR 443, said that "it is apparent from the foregoing that the third-party auditor, Global ComRCI, is not legally, technically, and financially capable to be a consultant of Pagcor as required under our procurement rules and regulations, and should not have been awarded the contract for being ineligible and disqualified from the start."

The procurement, which was awarded in Dec. 2017, was scrutinized by the Ways and Means panel as it questioned the credibility of Global ComRCI.

During the Monday hearing, Sen. Win Gatchalian presented photos of Global ComRCI's submitted address. These showed a house at the location and not the office space expected of an agency capable of fulfilling a multi-billion-peso contract.

It also came out that Global ComRCI's fulfillment of the ₱1-billion operating capital requirement was certified by the Soleil Chartered Bank, an entity not registered with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

"[Global ComRCI] has not been paying taxes, is not registered with the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Securities and Exchange Commission, and has not complied with other requirements of the terms of reference in the bidding documents of the Pagcor," SR 443 read.

Before the Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations, otherwise known as the Blue Ribbon Committee, can conduct a probe, SR 443 must first be referred to it. Committee Chairperson Sen. Francis Tolentino would then call for the legislative inquiry.

"We already know the financial angle of the transaction: ₱6 billion in 10 years so ₱600 million a year, ₱50 million a month pumayag ang Pagcor to pay this auditor (Pagcor allowed them to be paid ₱50 million a month). The question is why did the past admin enter such a contract?" Pimentel said Thursday.

Pagcor Chief Al Tengco earlier told CNN Philippines that they had not yet made any payments to the third-party auditor.

WATCH: Offshore gaming operations in PH | Politics As Usual

In response, Pimentel said the Senate panel would investigate Pagcor's claim that it had not made any payments.

"That makes the situation worse for the previous administration of Pagcor which entered into the contract," he added.

Tengco said he placed the procurement contract under review in Sept. 2022, just one month after he took office and nearly five years after it was awarded to Global ComRCI.

"Very soon, we're coming out with a decision whether we will still allow the third-party auditor to continue rendering services for us or the possibility of terminating the contract," Tengco earlier said.

READ: Pagcor: Contract with third-party POGO auditor under review