The government may be forced to give more power to the National Auditdal. Office, following the recent National Lottery bribery scandal.
In the wake of the affair, Public Accounts Committee members have expressed concern that the NAO was not allowed to examine Camelot’s books.
Lottery regulator and chartered accountant Peter Davis, who resigned last week, could have forced Camelot to open its books to the audit office and the PAC, but chose not to.
‘We actively sought access to the accounts,’ said an NAO spokeswoman.
‘We also qualified the income distribution accounts, which is a fairly serious step. But we were not given access.’ PAC chairman David Davis, MP, added: ‘Of course we think we should have had access. It is public money.’
Peter Davis has taken some of the blame for this lack of accountability, and has been accused of getting too close to Camelot.
But an NAO insider pointed out that the previous government was also to blame, having framed lottery legislation which made no provision for an audit office inspection of Camelot accounts. The increasingly powerful PAC wants the rules changed to guarantee such an inspection.
A lottery bill is currently going through Parliament but it makes no reference to a public interrogation of the accounts. Whether primary legislation is needed for the NAO to gain access to the figures is not clear.
Last January, Labour promised that if it won the election it would give the NAO an enhanced ‘sleazebusting’ role, which would entail clearing top public appointments and the commissioning of private contractors, such as Camelot.
As yet there have been no structural changes to the NAO’s powers, but PAC member Andrew Love, Labour MP for Edmonton North, said discussions were taking place to find ways of ensuring greater scrutiny of all public spending.
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