By Shelagh Gastrow
Parliament needs to do more than just raise an eyebrow over the shameful antics of the National Lotteries Board and the way it is doling out our public funds. In the past few weeks alone, we have heard about a R51-million grant given to an organisation called Makhaya, an events management company that operates mainly in Eastern Europe. Half of Makhaya's staff live in Serbia and its fundraiser just happens to be the daughter of the chairperson of the National Lotteries Board. And if that doesn't start your alarm bells ringing, how about the R58-million grant given to an organisation called Impucuzeko to make a film called Iquili, rather aptly meaning "The Conman" when translated.
As City Press pointed out in its investigation, Impucuzeko doesn't have a website so we can't easily establish if it is a non-profit or has a voluntary board, or who works for the organisation. The company allegedly provides training and development in music, business and filmmaking, but its Facebook page hardly inspires confidence that it can handle R58 million worth of public money.
And if that doesn't keep you awake at night, how about the story of Gideon Sam, the chairperson of the Lotteries Sports and Recreation Distributing Agency, whose company Accelerate Sport SA recently received a hefty commission or fee for successfully assisting Cycling SA in its application for Lotteries Board funding. Sam claims he recused himself from the process, but scuttling out of the room when the vote actually happens is a tiny part of a grant application process that can often take years to put in place. The acceptance by Lotteries management that the private business interests of a member of the distributing agencies can draw a fee or commission, just demonstrates how far we have slipped down the corruption slope. Call it what you will, but in my view, it is corrupt for people to hold an office when grants or tenders from government structures are made to anyone or any company with which they have a financial interest. As director of Accelerate Sport SA, Sam should not be involved with the distributing agency at all. Who makes these appointments? In terms of line management, it appears that these appointments are made by the trade and industry minister. Surely, he should know better when it comes to conflicts of interest, corruption and indirect payments? Or does he? In this case, his integrity is in question as he continually washes his hands of the matter. Now let's look at who doesn't get money from the National Lotteries Board. Well, many of the organisations that the lottery was established to help. Unfortunately, charities, nonprofits and welfare organisations don't have any influence or personal connections at the National Lotteries Board. The treatment being meted out to these organisations that form the backbone of our democracy is appalling and reflects an arrogant disregard for those battling to assist those suffering the hardships of poverty, unemployment and disease. The most common excuse from the National Lotteries Board is that a page is missing from an organisation's application and, in such cases, there are no grounds for appeal. It is no longer believable that so many pages are missing. The random decisionmaking, poor management and inefficient administration that has become characteristic of the National Lotteries Board has had a devastating effect on many organisations in South Africa. Too many have been forced to close their doors. To open another door to possible corrupt practices, the lottery is now thinking of donating money to individuals and small business development. Why? It really is time for Parliament and the minister to do more than just raise their eyebrows. They urgently need to overhaul the way the National Lotteries Board manages and distributes our public funds. After all, our government is ultimately responsible for sorting out this distressing debacle. » Gastrow is the executive director of Inyathelo — The South African Institute of Advancement The random decision-making, poor management and inefficient administration that has become characteristic of the Lotteries Board has had a devastating effect on many organisations