Davies tackles gambling board's mismanagement

2014-10-17 18:02

Allegations of maladministration, wasteful spending and corrupt activities prompted Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies to suspend members of the National Gambling Board (NGB) last month.

These are among reasons given by Davies today in a written submission to Parliament's trade and industry portfolio committee, in line with a request by its chairperson Joan Fubbs for him to do so.

The minister is currently abroad, and the submission was made on his behalf by the department's director general, Lionel October.

Davies suspended the NGB last month, pending a forensic investigation into the affairs of the agency, whose members are appointed by the minister. Two administrators were appointed at the time to oversee the entity's day-to-day affairs.

The board is responsible for overseeing and regulating South Africa's multi-billion-rand gambling industry.

In the submission, Davies said the suspensions were "precautionary", and followed allegations reported by the auditor-general in the NGB's recently tabled 2013/14 annual report.

These included alleged contravention of the Public Finance Management Act through "failing to prevent irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, and making overdraft on the entity's bank account without the approval of the minister of finance".

Further, the board's accounting authority, "acting either individually or jointly", had allegedly contravened the National Gambling Act by "allowing members whose term of office had expired to continue participating in the board's activities and representing the NGB".

Davies said he had also received a disclosure -- made in terms of the Protected Disclosures Act -- that contained certain other allegations.

Among these were allegations of "apparent corrupt activities regarding the National Central Electronic Monitoring System" and the "unlawful appointments of staff".

Also, there was alleged "intimidation/bullying/disregard of constitution/witch-hunt", as well as alleged "theft of evidential material" at the NGB.

The Democratic Alliance today welcomed the minister's giving reasons for his suspension of the NGB members.

DA MP Dean Macpherson said that among the "indiscretions" allegedly committed by board members was that they had "increased their own remuneration by a staggering 46% in the 2013/14 period".

In addition, "board members spent R2.7 million on travel for 2013/14, which included a R1.4 million overseas trip to attend a conference in Norway".

The DA would be submitting parliamentary questions to determine when the investigation would be completed, and would move to have criminal charges brought against any board member found to have acted unlawfully, he said.

According to the NGB's annual report, gross gambling revenue for 2013/14 was R21.8 billion, more than three-quarters of which came from casinos.

Taxes and levies collected from gambling activities amounted to R2.2bn over this period.

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