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Having looked at one example of rent seeking, in an unusual format, in the field of education, I came across another that was also quite illuminating about the way in which we allow ourselves to be exploited. This, also startling, case of abuse came to my notice when I went through the documents sent by the National Lotteries Board, after they had been examined by the Committee on Public Enterprises, and been found wanting.

What I read seemed to suggest appalling waste, and I hope very much that COPE will include strong strictures in its Report and recommend strongly that better systems be put in place. Though the aberrations that came to my notice had occurred a decade ago, and I don’t suppose there is any way in which the money wasted by government can be recovered, there are lessons to be learnt.

In particular it seems clear that there should be measures to ensure more careful assessments by Cabinet or any Committee it appoints about proposals made in Cabinet papers. As far as I can make out, what happened then was that the Minister of Economic Reform, Science and Technology had a discussion with ‘Norwegian Authorities’, who were not specified, and then put a paper to Cabinet to ‘set up a scholarship fund to provide scholarships to needy students in the country through an innovative lottery project’. Why the Minister of Economic Reform, Science and Technology should have been concerned with lotteries or with scholarship funds is not clear, but it seems that the question did not occur to Cabinet. Perhaps the word Norwegian was seen then as a sign sent from God, or the Prime Minister, so the Cabinet then approved setting up a Committee to ‘negotiate suitable terms & conditions with NORSE TIPPING Norwegian Lottery and make suitable recommendations’.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

August 2013
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