| SOUTH AFRICA

Lottery hides its beneficiaries following corruption exposés

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Minister Ebrahim Patel still failing to answer questions

Photo of someone filling in Lottery ticket
Nearly a third of the price of a Lottery ticket goes to charity via the National Lotteries Commission (NLC). Now the NLC has decided not to identify who those charities are or how much they receive. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks
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The National Lotteries Commission (NLC) has failed to publish details of organisations it has funded in its 2019 Annual report. For the past 18 years it has made the list of beneficiaries available, either in the report or as a separately released table. But now the NLC has stated that it will not be disclosing its beneficiaries.

This contradicts the NLC’s often-repeated claim that it applies principles of openness and transparency in all of its operations.

The NLC ignored questions about the exclusion, including whether the Department of Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel, who has executive authority over the NLC, had been consulted on the decision.

Instead, the NLC issued a media release justifying why it did not have to publish the details of beneficiary organisations that receive public funding.

“In preparation of these reports, the NLC engaged extensively with experts accredited by the Integrated Report Council of South Africa, to ensure the NLC meets the corporate governance standards of reporting but also ensures that legislative prescripts are met,” NLC spokesman Ndivuhuho Mafela said.

“To this end, the NLC is comfortable that the non-publishing of the details relating to grants allocated is therefore not unlawful and the NLC’s integrated report is fully compliant with legislative and governance requirements. The annual report is further quality assured by the Auditor General before submission to the DTI and Parliament.”

The statement’s justification for the decision is vague, referring to the “King IV code” and that the “interest of the NLC and its stakeholders are preserved”.

The failure to identify grantees is a break in a protocol that has been in place since 2001 when the Lottery made its first grants to “good causes” using a portion of the revenue from ticket sales. Until now the NLC has always included the details of beneficiary organisations funded in that calendar year and the amount they were funded in its annual reports, except for last year when it released the details of beneficiaries simultaneously, albeit separately, with the release of its annual report.

The NLC’s decision comes after a series of media reports exposing corruption and incompetence in NLC-funded projects.

Journalist Anton van Zyl, who has been investigating Lottery grants, has submitted a Promotion of Access to Information Act request for details of the grantees.

Dean McPherson, the Democratic Alliance’s Shadow Minister for Trade and Industry (DTI), said the exclusion of funded organisations in the NLC’s 2019 annual report was “completely unacceptable”.

The DTI Portfolio Committee in Parliament has asked the NLC for the details, he said. “It is becoming apparent that the case for the NLC to be placed under administration is growing by the week as each new scandal emerges without a valid explanation from the NLC.”

Responding to questions emailed to committee chairman Duma Nkosi, committee secretary Andre Hermans said: “On behalf of the Chairperson I would like to inform you that he is engaging the NLC on the matter raised and will keep you posted on the outcome.”

Questions sent on 9 October to DTI Minister Ebrahim Patel, via his spokesman Sidwell Medupe, were ignored. The questions included whether the Minister was aware of the non-publication of the details of grantees and whether he was consulted on the decision.

The same questions — also addressed to the Minister — were then emailed on 22 October to DTI Director-General Lionel October and DTI Chief Operating Officer Jodi Scholtz, and Moosa Ebrahim, the chief of staff in the Minister’s Office. In spite of an initial confirmation that October had received the questions, there was no further response.

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TOPICS:  National Lotteries Commission

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Dear Editor

The screaming silence in response to requests for transparency is an insult to the citizens of the country and to those who rely on contributions from the fund to carry on their good works.