All organisations eligible for National Lottery funding must get ‘fair crack of whip’

Minister says perception money skewed to ‘certain constituencies’ has to be dealt with

A perception that National Lottery funding for good causes is skewed towards "certain constituencies" will be dealt with as part of a major review of the distribution of its funds.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said he wants to ensure the system is operating fairly and that all organisations eligible for funding “get a fair crack of the whip”

It is the first significant review of the funding model since the lottery began in 1987.

Indecon Consultants will report to the Minister and will look at the effectiveness and transparency in the way funds are distributed and streamline the allocation process.

The process is expected to be completed “in the first half of next year” and will also involve a steering group led by the Minister’s department and including a number of Government departments that receive lottery funding.

A public consultation with a targeted group of stakeholders will also take place in the next few weeks.

Mr McGrath said that although all the spending is “subject to robust oversight and audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General, a lack of clarity can create a perception that money is not distributed in a fair and transparent manner.

“The regulator of the National Lottery has conveyed a perception, which exists among some members of the public, that funding goes to certain constituencies, for example, and this is an issue that must be addressed.”

A key element of the review is “the protection of the lottery brand into the future”.

Mr McGrath said “close to 30 cent of every €1 spent on national lottery games” goes to fund good cause projects and about €6 billion has been raised since national lottery operations started, with over €254 million transferred to the Exchequer last year.

Difficult to track

But Fianna Fáil Dun Laoghaire TD Cormac Devlin who raised the issue in a parliamentary question said that in the UK, "approximately 53 per cent of every £1 spent goes to the prize funds, 25 per cent goes to good causes, 12 per cent goes to the UK Government as duty, 4 per cent goes to the retailers and 5 per cent goes to the operator, with 4 per cent of that 5 per cent for operating costs and 1 per cent of it for profits".

He also asked how much each sector including sport, culture, heritage, the arts, youth, welfare and amenities received.

Mr McGrath said it can be difficult to track the good causes expenditure and for clubs and organisations “to navigate the funding options available and to identify if they are eligible for funding”.

In addition not all sectors listed as potential beneficiaries are getting funding and the process to allocate money needs to be streamlined.

“That may well lead to some changes and that is something we can manage over time”.

The problem is added to by the way Government departments communicate on how the funding is used.

“Some Departments do not publish details of which organisations have been awarded funding, while others may publish details of expenditure grants but not mention that the grants have any link to the national lottery.”

And there is no legal structure setting out how funds should be assigned.

All of this leads to a perception among some members of the public that the funding is skewed to certain constituencies, which the Minister insists must be dealt with through improving oversight and transparency and ensuring “all organisations get a fair crack of the whip”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is a parliamentary reporter with The Irish Times