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A person ticks numbers on a lottery ticket. Image: Ashraf Hendricks.

By Thato Mahlangu

Parliament said on Wednesday 11 March 2020 that its trade and industry portfolio committee welcomes an investigation to uncover any fraud or corruption related to community organisation or non-governmental organisation funding.

Freelance journalist Raymond Joseph has alleged that the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) has been involved in a fraud, nepotism and corruption scandal, which it was trying to hide from the public.

These reports, written by Joseph, were published by the not-for-profit news agency GroundUp. NLC started a litigation process to sue the news agency after it published the damning reports.

The parliamentary committee’s chairperson Duma Nkosi said they were aware that an investigation (by NLC) into these allegations will be conducted. He said this in a meeting held on Tuesday, 10 March 2020.

“We are aware of NLC’s decision to initiate a thorough investigation into the allegations of nepotism, fraud, and corruption. This relates to NLC’s funding activities, where these allegations originated from,” he said.  

Nkosi said NLC supports the calls for the eradication of fraud in all its forms, adding that “whether there is fraud to the value of R10 or R1-million it is still fraud.

“The NLC committed itself to follow with the terms of reference given to the audit firm investigating the allegations, and to report to the committee on its findings and on any measures to be taken.”

Nkosi said the committee welcomed the improvement of the process to consider and approve the allocation of community organisation or non-governmental funding.

“[NLC] was of the view that this could assist in eradicating loopholes and improving accountability,” he said, adding that the committee was pleased with the financial records for the previous and current accounting years.

“With respect to its third-quarter financial and non-financial performance for the 2019/20 financial year, the committee welcomed the NLC’s achievement of all its performance targets.

Corruption Watch concerned about NLC allegations

Corruption Watch (CW) executive director David Lewis said: “CW notes with alarm the intimidation techniques that are being used by NLC against Joseph and GroundUp.

“The NLC is relying on a regulation to the Lotteries Act that prohibits the disclosure of grant information and, given the important place the rights to freedom of expression and access to information play in our constitutional system, CW is concerned that this regulation — or its implementation by the NLC — may be unconstitutional.”

Lewis also criticised the NLC for refusing to reveal details of its most recent grant recipients, in contrast to the previous 18 years.

“It is deeply suspicious that they have gone from voluntarily disclosing information on their grants to flat-out refusing to do so. Transparency is a vital component in the fight against corruption, and the utter lack of transparency in the NLC at present raises serious questions about the integrity of their work.”