Lottery demands R19m back from jazz man

2012-03-17 10:09

The National Lotteries Board is demanding R19 million in funding back from the head of the Jazz Foundation amid claims the ANC Youth League attempted to interfere in an earlier dispute with the music organisation.

This is the latest salvo in the battle between the lotteries board and Jazz Foundation chief executive Oupa Salemane – who was a lottery official deciding on grants when the foundation he heads received millions.

Recordings of board meetings suggest there was attempted political interference in an earlier dispute with Salemane, who recused himself when the funding decisions were made.

The board has confirmed that a police investigation into the use of lottery funds by the Jazz Foundation is under way.

The recording of a 2009 board meeting leaked to Media24 Investigations reveals the legal battle between the board and Salemane following a forensic audit of a R15 million grant.

The recording reveals that an audit of spending for a concert held in 2007 had found serious financial irregularities.

At the time of the 2009 dispute, another R170 million in funding applications from the foundation was in the pipeline, Vevek Ram – then lotteries board chief executive – is heard saying in the board meeting.

Over the past five years, the foundation has been successful in applying for at least R34 million in funding despite the controversy surrounding it.

The audit also discovered that the foundation had made a surplus of R1 million from three 2007 concerts and that the board was demanding the money be surrendered to it. The Jazz Foundation refused and threatened to sue the lotteries board for an outstanding amount of R3.75 million if it didn’t pay.

The board sued the Jazz Foundation instead. And that is when, the tapes suggest, the foundation turned to the ANC Youth League.

“Subsequent to that, the Jazz Foundation approached the ANC Youth League, which met with the (then National Lotteries Board) chairperson because he (Salemane) said he was being victimised,” said Ram in the meeting.

Salemane had claimed the lottery’s administrative staff had persecuted him and had turned to the youth league as a result.

A meeting between the lotteries board and Salemane had failed to lift the impasse, and subsequent to that, Ram said, the league had approached Zodwa Ntuli, the deputy director-general within the department of trade and industry, who is responsible for the lottery.

Ram claimed on the recording that after a meeting between the youth league and Ntuli, the latter then met with him and said the department had “decided that this matter should be settled out of court; they’re not happy that we’re taking beneficiaries to court”.

Board discussions of the forensic audit revealed that for one concert Salemane had claimed that 18 000 tickets for the concert had been sold – meanwhile only 700 were sold – and that Salemane had received a multimillion-rand management fee for organising a concert, but contracted others to organise it instead.

While the lotteries board was waiting for a court date, its term expired in December 2009.

Early in 2010, the new board under the current chairperson, Alfred Nevhutanda, withdrew the case, paving the way for further grants to be allocated to the Jazz Foundation.

Last week, Salemane confirmed he was served with a letter of demand to return another R19 million in funding for concerts in 2010.

But Ram, who resigned as National Lotteries Board chief executive in January, stuck to his claims and insisted a youth league official, whose name was not recorded, had approached former board chairperson Joe Foster about the dispute.

In the recording, his account of the meeting was not challenged by any other board member.

Foster himself could not recall the meeting.

Approached for comment the week before last, Ntuli denied having dealt with the youth league on the matter.

 She did not respond to a further request for clarification, which included a transcript of the recording.

Youth league spokesperson Magdalene Moonsamy did not respond to several requests for comment.


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