MPs to carpet Oflot chief

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The Independent Online
Peter Davies, the director-general of the National Lottery watchdog Oflot, will receive another roasting from MPs on the powerful Commons public accounts committee this week, this time about a recent official study showing that not enough is being done to keep an eye on Camelot, the company that runs the lottery.

A year after the lottery was started, only one of the 21 checks devised by Oflot to ensure that Camelot was doing its job properly had been implemented, and even that had not been correctly applied.

Remarkably, according to the study by the National Audit Office, the public spending watchdog, one check still at the drawing-board stage more than 12 months after the first winners had been announced was a test on the procedures for the Saturday night draw.

After previously being hauled over the coals by the committe for accepting free flights and hospitality from G-Tech, one of the members of the Camelot consortium, Mr Davis will be asked to explain why tests intended to assess whether the lottery operator was complying with the terms of its government licence were not applied.

The lottery was launched in November 1994. But the audit office found that, a year after the first draw was made, only one of 21 checks recommended by external consultants hired by Oflot was fully up and running, and that was not properly applied.

Of the remainder, 10 were only partially introduced and the other 10 were still being drafted.

MPs will also want to know why Oflot's forecasting procedures were so inadequate: according to the audit office, Camelot's predicted income in the period up to March 1996 was reckoned to be pounds 3.3bn when, in fact, it was pounds 1.5bn more, at pounds 4.8bn.

Checks that were still at the drafting stage a year after launch included verification that sales were what Camelot said they were; IT security; Camelot's deals with contractors and suppliers, and protection of jackpot winners' interests.

A test aimed at ensuring the Saturday prize draw was carried out correctly had not been started more than a year after the number balls were first spun.

Other fail-safe checks were only partially under way. These included examinations of Camelot's marketing and advertising campaign and the Instants competition.

Alan Williams, MP for Swansea West and a member of the public accounts committee, described the audit office's findings as "astonishing". All Oflot was doing, said Mr Williams, was checking that the amounts of money paid over to the Distribution Fund for good causes and to the Treasury tallied with figures declared by Camelot.

The MP, who led the onlsaught against Mr Davis over the G-Tech flights, accused the dirtector-general of operating a "primitive assessment system".

Mr Williams said: "It is salutary to think that during the period when the regulator was swanning round the United States in presidential style in G-Tech aircraft, his staff were not doing the work. A year after the lottery had started, of the 21 tests to ensure that the [licence] criteria were being observed, only one was operational, and it was sloppy."

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