MPs call for new audit powers over Camelot

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The Independent Online
The auditing procedures for Camelot may be tightened after it was revealed the Auditor General did not have full access to the books. Kim Sengupta reports.

Government spending watchdogs have been unable to examine fully the accounts of Camelot. The Auditor General Sir John Bourn has never had full access to the books since the lottery began, but has had to rely instead on a Statement of Assurance by that former regulator Peter Davis that everything has been done correctly.

Both Camelot and Oflot claim the accounts have been fully vetted by the National Audit Office. But this is denied in a report to Parliament by Sir John Bourn. He stated: "I am not required to attest to the adequacy of the Director General's procedures or his statement of Assurances. Moreover, since I do not have audit access to the Lottery Operator, Camelot, I cannot assess independently whether the Director General's procedures have sufficient regard to the risks and controls in the Camelot systems."

After the forced resignation of Peter Davis, MPs are demanding changes to make the lottery much more accountable. The powerful House of Commons Public Accounts Committee will be pressing the Government to increase Sir John's powers and give his office full access to all relevant details.

One committee member, Alan Williams, Labour MP for Swansea West, said: " This is a shortcoming we must address, and what is unfolding at the moment makes it important that we do so as soon as possible."

Whitehall sources indicate the idea would be favourably received. The sources also state that the Department of Culture Media and Sport is considering a number of options on the future of the US company GTech in the Camelot Consortium.

GTech owns 22.5 per cent stake in Camelot which had earned it more than pounds 12m so far. It also has a contract for supplying the computers and the terminals at sales outlets which has to date gained the company payments totalling pounds 66.2 million. That some goes not to GTech UK but straight to its offices in America.

One option being considered by the Goverment would be keep the equipment contract with GTech, the removal of which could pose severe logistical problems in running the game, but detach it from the consortium.

A Camelot spokeswoman said: " We shall of course do whatever the new Director General says, but we see no reason why GTech should have to leave the consortium. They are the best".

The GTech boss Guy Snowden, who lost a libel action against Richard Branson and since then resigned from the company's British and US arms should not receive any direct financial benefit from the UK game, Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, had indicated. However, a GTech spokeswoman said Mr Snowden did not receive any dividend payments on his shares, so the only way he could benefit from them would be through selling them.