Who dares to say nobody wins

Auditing is not all boring bookwork, says Roger Trapp. There's a Lotter y at stake Only when a fax confirms cut-off can the draw start

Last weekend, amid all the jollity and fun of the BBC'S latest National Lottery Show, there was one sober-suited individual. He was a Price Waterhouse partner, and he was there to ensure fair play.

Although he dutifully noted down numbers of the winning balls, his main role was todecide whether the event should be called off if something like a power cut interfered. While such a decision would only be made in consultation with Lottery operator Camelot and the regulator Oflot, the prospect of enraging the nation is considered such a momentous responsibility that the firm has only lined up partners for television appearances.

But with the BBC still taking the show around the regions, several PW partners have now enjoyed their 15 minutes of exposure, if not fame.

Richard Sykes, the firm's audit partner for Camelot, said the firm was covering the different locations from eight offices, including London. However, some, such as last week's draw from the Cornish coast, pose more logistical problems than others.

Because the castle chosen was difficult to get to, the Bristol partner chosen for the show had a back-up in the city to make the trip in the event of a car breakdown or other mishap along the way. Mr Sykes himself was also on standby in London in case the BBC called off the outside broadcast and beamed the draw from its studios.

The serious nature with which this aspect is regarded is demonstrated by the lengthy preparations Mr Sykes and his team went through before the first screening last November.

Having been put through their paces at Camelot's training centre at St Albans, Hertfordshire, they and the presenters were put out among the people in the Ealing Broadway shopping centre in west London before spending the Friday and Saturday of the draw at the BBC studios.

Then Mr Sykes had to appear for the second week's broadcast from the Rhondda Valley because the producers wanted the same group of people to do the first outdoor location.

But the television appearance is only one of three main duties carried out by the PW team on the night.

The first, and according to Mr Sykes arguably the most critical, is conducted at the Camelot data centre at Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire.

It involves making sure everything is shut down and secured following the cut-off for ticket sales at 7.30pm. Only when a fax to the BBC confirms this cut-off can the draw start.

It is so important because "the easiest way to defraud the Lottery is, once you know the winning numbers, to choose them," explains Mr Sykes.

But the job of the PW representative at the data centre does not end with the fax. He or she stays all night to help Camelot with the work that enables it to pay out the next morning.

The final duty is to make sure the draw machine and balls comply with the rules. There are several sets of balls and all have to be checked by Weights and Measures officials to ensure they weigh the same.

To prevent tampering between the weighing and the draw, the balls are kept in cases secured with combinations locks that can only be opened in the presence of the PW partner. This person also has to be there when the machines are opened.

It is hardly a conventional audit. For a start, it comes with a heavy price - there are severe restrictions on Mr Sykes and his team, and their families, participating in the event.

Moreover, there is little glory. Though they have been seen going about their work by loved ones, they are rarely named, and the BBC has even stopped naming the firm.

But, according to Mr Sykes, the security work goes "hand in hand" with the audit and tax advice that PW secured after its role in assisting Camelot's victory in the bid for the Lottery.

Although it has some experience of working with lotteries in the US states of Indiana and Georgia, as well as South Africa, the firm likes to think that its overall reputation won it the role.

After all, it is not a total stranger to stage and screen. It is also in charge of checking votes for the Oscars.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

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