Lottery issues

Last year, on 29th September, I wrote that media reports about Bhutan’s role in the Indian lottery scam screamed for answers.

On 11th October 2010, I wrote that the government needed to answer certain pressing questions regarding its dealings with Bhutan’s lottery agent in India.

On 14th November 2010, I suggested that, instead of pulling out of the lottery business, the government should use lottery proceeds to fund public service broadcasting.

On 30th November 2010, during the National Assembly’s question hour, I asked the Finance Minister to explain what the government had done to investigate the alleged violations in the appointment of Bhutan’s lottery agent in India, and the alleged violations by that agent.

On 22nd June 2011, I observed that the government’s decision to close lottery operations in India and, thereby, forgo revenue estimated at Nu 200 million per year was not a good idea.

Sometime in June 2011, the Royal Audit Authority issued a special report on the lottery operations. I requested the RAA for a copy of that report, but was denied one, as the RAA was still waiting for the government’s responses to their observations.

Also in June 2011, a month after the government cancelled the contract with their lottery agent in India, the Directorate of Lottery approached that agent to sponsor a local golf tournament.

And on 23rd August 2011, the cabinet issued a press release announcing it decision that “moral responsibility and accountability must be fixed”, and that “… it will finally do away with the Lottery operations altogether.”

I welcome the government’s decision to fix moral responsibility and accountability. It means that the government has accepted that violations did take place in the way Bhutan’s lottery operations were handled.

But who will accept moral responsibility? And who will be held accountable for the alleged violations in the lottery business?

The lottery director has resigned. But not because he admitted doing any wrong. It appears he resigned because the government had announced that “… it is washing its hands off from the lottery business.”

The government has shut down the Directorate of Lottery. But it has done so because of its decision to halt lottery operations. That’s why the government has announced that the staff will be transferred to other agencies.

So as of now, no one has accepted moral responsibility for violations that seem to have taken place in the lottery business. And no one has been held accountable, in spite of the fact that the government apparently lost billions of Ngultrums in the way the lottery operations were handled. And in spite of the fact that, even after the contract with the government’s lottery agent in India was terminated, that agent was asked to sponsor a golf tournament in Bhutan.

To make matters worse, the government has decided to terminate all lottery operations because it now views the business as “no less than gambling”.

The lottery scam screamed for answers. But the government’s decision to terminate Bhutan’s lottery operations is the worst possible outcome – it provides no answers, while depriving the exchequer of much needed revenue.

While no answers have yet been provided, while no one has yet been implicated, and while no one has yet taken moral responsibility, the government has already terminated the lottery business, and in doing so, forfeited potentially billions of Ngultrums of national revenue, money which could have been used to finance kidu and relief, public service broadcasting, sports or the activities of NGOs.

So the government must reverse its decision to terminate lottery operations. Otherwise it will be held responsible for squandering millions – perhaps even billions – of Ngultrums that belong to the people of Bhutan.

And the government must, without further delay, fulfill its promise to fix moral responsibility and accountability on those involved in the lottery scam.

 

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  1. Lotteries are innovative sources of revenue for conservation and education in many parts of the United States. Of course, many buy a lottery ticket with dreams of making it “BIG” but it is “Where the money goes” that encourages ordinary people to spend a dollar or “more” on a lottery ticket. For instance in Colorado, lottery money funds the management and maintenance of the State’s National Parks and since this is “where the money goes”, people are encouraged to buy a lotto or power ball ticket now and then as they see it as a personal contribution to the conservation of the State’s parks – of course they don’t shy from the dream of hitting the Jackpot also.

    Therefore, rather than following the norm of “BANNING” something when it needs fixing, such innovative approaches need to be developed to make people feel that they are contributing to a greater cause when they buy a lottery ticket.

    The following paras describe how lottery money is used in Colorado.

    Where the money goes
    Giving back
    Every time you visit a park, walk on a trail, or paddle a kayak course, you’re seeing Colorado Lottery dollars at work. More than $2.2 billion has been returned to the state for parks, recreation, open space, conservation education and wildlife projects since the Lottery started in 1983.

    Profits from the sale of Lottery products are mandated to be distributed according to this formula: 50 percent to the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Trust Fund, 40 percent to the Conservation Trust Fund, and 10 percent to The Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation. GOCO funds are capped at $35 million and funds in excess of $35 million go to the Colorado Department of Education, Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund.
    Great Outdoors Colorado
    Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) gives money to projects across the state to help impact communities. Funds build trails, help open recreation facilities, preserve ranchlands and view corridors, improve and expand river quality and access, and conserve wildlife habitat. The Colorado Lottery is GOCO’s only funding source.

    Conservation Trust Fund
    Local parks and recreation providers – towns, cities, counties and special districts use funds for open space and land acquisition, equipment purchases, facility development, park maintenance, and for the renovation and restoration of local facilities.

    Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation
    Colorado’s 42 state parks use Lottery money for trail construction and maintenance, land acquisition, equipment and facility purchases and maintenance of state parks facilities.

    School Health and Safety
    When the Colorado Lottery joined Powerball in 1992, the distribution formula changed to include funding for school health and safety issues. Spill-off or any extra funds are provided to the Colorado’s Public School Capitol Construction Assistance Fund.

  2. Truth_is_Buddha says:

    Why does the govt wants to apply quick fixes (rather, sweep under the carpet) when any negative issue rises? We must learn to take responsibility and fix things positively so that the same mistakes are avoided later.

    Lottery is definitely not gambling. It is a legal, state business that helps to raise funds to sponsor important and necessary social and economic initiatives. The best way is to conduct this business in a legal, legitimate, transparent and systematic way.

    Let us not prove the fact that ‘the devil can cite scriptures for his purpose’

  3. I think there are lots of people in the private sector who are today capable of running Bhutan Lotteries.There is nothing complexed about the operations.Moreover the lottery tickets are sold in India so does not affect the people of Bhutan but rather it would help with the huge revenue it can earn from lotteries. The government and members of Parliament must give a thought on this.We dont need to go begging for funds from Donor countries.

  4. Just moral responsibility is not enough, someone is accountable and they should be punished. Otherwise anyone can commit any crime and go scot-free claiming moral responsibility. If moral responsibility is enough, why do we have courts and judges and lawyers? We can let every criminal go free if they accept moral responsibility.

    This lottery scam if dug deep enough would be worse than Gyalposhing land scam. It looks like lots of higher ups are involved, that is why they are trying to sweep it under the rug.

    Depriving our country of millions of ngultrums just to cover their asses sounds like a selfish thing to do.

    I will suggest this again, why don’t we have weekly lottery just for Bhutan. That way it will provide jobs and provide funds for various economic activities. Lottery are known as involuntary tax and help fund a lot of social and economic activities in other countries besides proving a lot of jobs.

  5. Dear OL, Lets do a walk or protest on the corruption issues in Bhutan. Today there are lots of people who will join you if you start this walk.We need to act fast because the ACC will not do much. You being the Opoosition Leader has the right to protest as this is democracy.

  6. I forgot to add, if lottery business is no less than gambling, then what do we call ARMY WELFARE PROJECT. Every year hundreds of Bhutanese die, couples divorce, families separated, people go broke, crimes committed, all thanks to the magical water produced by Army welfare project.

  7. The ACC needs to revisit the Lottery scam, otherwise how is it possible for the Director of Bhutan lotteries to be operating a bank account in which Santiago martin, the Indian lottery don had been making regular deposit of lacs of rupees. It seems that the lottery Director had direct access to those funds. To put it simply, it was bribe money. They also need to revisit the AWP scam Part 2, if rumors are to be believed, the person who took over from Major Pem Tshering siphoned of even more money than the now infamous major himself. OL, great job, please look into the above issues and as long as you take the fight against corruption to the RGOB, you have my full backing.

  8. I agree fully with Tandi on how lotteries operate in the USA, apart from just making huge profits for themselves, many charitable organisations and other entities that fulfill a social mandate are the recipients of funds from the profits made by the companies that run the lottery businesses. The way the RGOB suddenly decided close its lottery operations points to the fact that they don’t want many corrupt practices that happened to become public knowledge and hence no investigation into the lottery scam, in-spite of there being overwhelming evidence that many people enriched themselves from the kickbacks they received from their Indian agents. As far as moral responsibility goes, it has to start with the present Finance Minister as he is the one that has been overseeing the Ministry of Finance under which the Bhutan Lottery was answerable to for at least the last ten years.

  9. closure on the lottery scam will not come from discontinuing lottery activities & disbanding the office..pm jigme thinley & his yes men ALWAYS talks about the importance of setting the right direction for this young democracy of ours..here is one of many opportunities to walk the talk..
    seize this chance..unearth all the corruption that occurred with the lottery business..punish to the maximum those found guilty..resolve the issue..then revamp the lotteries..
    benefits brought out by truth, ol & others appear more advantageous than reasons this govt has put forward..
    personally, i like the suggestion of truth on having a lottery just for bhutanese..it could translate into invaluable resources for our increasing development needs..it will also mean one among us bhutanese will benefit through such a windfall every week or month..
    but first, mr prime minister, book & punish the guilty..give credibility to you & your team’s talk about zero tolerance on corruption..

  10. This is a classic example of “Throwing the Baby with the Bathwater.”

    In my view, limiting the sale of lottery just within Bhutan will not accrue to much revenue. I think we should have both.

    But first I think we need to put a good system in place together with all necessary checks and balances.

  11. what a wonderful country with wonderful givenment leaders selflessly working for themselves. Their bellys are full of gold now because they always try to eat gold not the rice.

  12. pema tenzing says:

    Dear OL,

    This is one of the biggest scandals in Bhutan involving billions of Nu. RAA estimates the Bhutan lottery at 623.6b in 2007 revenue alone. The government is basically closing this down to let public forget this and not embarass them further. It is apparent that the influential people have been under Martin’s payments.

    Gov announced that it had closed its ties with martin and subtly we find that Martin was funding the Bhutan Lottery Golf tournament in India, which gov cancelled when a newspaper disclosed who was sponsoring Bhutan Lottery Golf tournament. Go to Business bhutan and they have all the proofs and documents on lottery scams. ACC has been given the docs but do you all know that Dasho Neten is related to PM Jigme Thinley and she would lift a finger?

    OL, please do something and redeem Bhutan’s faith in its leaders. Go after the Gyelposhing and Bhutan Lottery. You will do Bhutan good.

  13. Yangka Chojay says:

    What ever you do your works, may god bless you….! thats it from my side.

  14. pema tenzing says:

    PM has been blaming the media for bringing out the Gyelpozhing land grabbing where he was a beneficiary. Instead of being sorry and realizing that Bhutan’s elite including himself are eating into the future of the common people, he is raising the fear among people that bringing this issue just one year before the general elections is going to affect Bhutan’s ability to raise funds for its development plans. Isn’t this guy some sort of a crazy dude? He thinks Bhutanese people have horns on their heads and sometimes I too think we do have horns on our heads.

  15. Stopping the lottery is a tragedy for Bhutan. Sometimes, I wonder, whether the government is on a crusade to punish the people for exposing all of their scams in so short a time.

  16. Ha Ha…

    Such a simple solution to the problem.

    Some more suggestions:-

    – One businessman cheated on some customers; so close all the shops in town.

    – Dogs may cause rabbies so kill all the dogs. No dogs no rabbies.

    – Vehicles cause accident; so ban vehicles on the road.

    – Electric short circuit may have caused the Chamkhar Fire; No more electricity to any more houses.

    The list can go on and on…

    Dear OL, please educate the new system that even the fixes should have some logic behind. We are no fools who will simply accept what the leaders say. Leaders will be leaders only till the time they show there sincere commitment towards the society and come up with more responsible ways of tackling crisis.

  17. MoF asked us the sell the Bhutan Special Lottery (draw date 11. 11. 2011) and now they are saying that they want the sold tickets to be repurchased and submit it back to them ! what the hell is going on…

    they say they have cancelled it, man its a headache …

  18. pema tenzing says:

    Bhutantimes.com is not working. is it because lately it has been filled with Gyelpozhing land scam and others against the government? Is our government behind this website not working?

  19. I have also bought two tickets, so where do I get my refund from.

  20. Why did not the ACC investigate the lottery case? Aum Neten had said, the Commission doesn’t need directives from anybody to do the investigation, then why is she not doing the investigation?
    Personally I feel, Bhutan Lottery had a nexus which goes into the mob of Bhutanese elites which if exposed would be so embarrassing, for having drained government’s exchequer. Finance minister if not others should definitely take the moral responsibility.

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