VAT receipt lottery urn does not allow adequate shuffling, NAO finds

The National Audit Office tables its annual report on government spending and one of the processes evaluated is the monthly VAT receipt lottery

The urn used to draw the winners of the VAT lottery was deemed too small by the NAO
The urn used to draw the winners of the VAT lottery was deemed too small by the NAO

With around three million fiscal receipts participating in the VAT lottery every month, the small urn used to draw the winners raises issues of fairness, the National Audit Office said.

It urged the Finance Ministry, which coordinates the lottery, to change the urn.

In its evaluation of the process, the NAO said the small urn may justify concerns as to whether all fiscal receipts are being afforded an equal level of probability to be selected.

“The urn is to be replaced with a more adequate one to allow a better shuffling of fiscal receipts to take place thus ensuring fairness and transparency,” the NAO said.

The review of the fiscal receipt lottery forms part of the NAO’s annual report on government expenditure for 2017 tabled in Parliament this afternoon.

The VAT lottery was introduced years ago as a means to encourage people to ask for fiscal receipts when buying products and services.

Every month people send in fiscal receipts with their name and ID card number written on the back. The monthly prize fund is €58,234. Fiscal receipts keep being drawn until the total amount is reached.

Winners take back the amount of the receipt multiplied by a factor of 100. Receipts with values less than €2.33 are guaranteed a minimum winning of €233.

In its reaction to the NAO’s observation, the Finance Ministry said it was in contact with the Works Division for the design of another urn.

“A report has been submitted but it has not yet been implemented as it is desirable that the urn be installed at premises where the public can deposit the fiscal receipts and near the Department of Public Lotto,” the ministry said in a reply that forms part of the NAO report.

Given that the public lotto department may be transferred elsewhere, the ministry said it was important that the design of the new urn reflect the new surroundings.

The NAO also noted that there was no audit trail of bags with fiscal receipts that were transferred from the public lotto premises to the warehouse where the lottery took place.

Although the service provider transferring the bags with receipts is accompanied by a public lotto messenger, the latter only grants access to the warehouse without performing any checks.

The NAO suggested that the lotto official take note of the number of bags of fiscal receipts transferred from the department premises to the warehouse and certify that all fiscal receipts are subsequently deposited in the urn.

The NAO recommendation was accepted by the ministry and relevant changes will be introduced to have a more transparent audit trail.