Keeping it all in the Lotto family

2011-11-12 17:35

A company employing the daughter of the National Lotteries Board’s chairperson scored more than R41 million in lottery money to stage arts extravaganzas overseas.

This made Makhaya Arts and Culture – the company employing Professor Alfred Nevhutanda’s daughter – the biggest winner of Lotto funds among arts and culture organisations in the last year.

The award uncovered by Media24 Investigations has now sparked uncomfortable questions for Nevhutanda, a prominent Limpopo ANC member.

His daughter Murendwa Nevhutanda, a 22-year-old film school graduate, started working as a marketing executive for Makhaya in May last year.

Only weeks before she was hired, Makhaya’s multimillion-rand grant from the Lotteries Board was ­approved.

The award to Makhaya is more than the R40 million controversially given to the National Youth Development Agency for last December’s World Youth ­Festival.

In the last financial year, the ­Grahamstown National Arts Festival received R14.3?million, the Endangered Wildlife Trust R2.8?million, and the Rural Development Network R3.65?million. All three organisations qualify for funding in the same category as ­Makhaya.

The decision to give millions to Makhaya – which calls itself a non-profit outfit but charges up to R400?000 for a stand at its events – was made by a lottery funding agency on which Nevhutanda had sat until weeks ­before Makhaya’s funding ­application.

He left the lottery distribution agency responsible for arts and culture – where he served since 2006 – to become National Lotteries Board chairperson in ­December 2009.

One of the responsibilities of the board is oversight of lottery spending and final approval of distribution agency grants.

The board said this week Nevhutanda had declared his daughter’s position with Makhaya in ­August this year – some 18 months after she joined it.

Shelagh Gastrow, a member of the Funding Practice Alliance, said it was “unfortunate that such large amounts are given to an organisation with familial relations with the chair of the board, but small ­organisations are turned down ­because a page is missing from their application”.

In March the alliance published a report slating the board for its tardiness in processing applications and seemingly arbitrary decisions as to who gets funding.

“If (Makhaya) is able to show that its board is voluntary and that it is not a mere conduit for a marketing-type company, the question is, ‘Why did this non-profit deserve such a massive injection when Child Welfare was told it’s too dependent on lotteries?’” ­Gastrow asked.

“It’s poor practice at the very least,” said Judith February ofthe ­Institute for Democracy.

Murendwa Nevhutanda said: “I am not conflicted. I am just an employee and have no dealings with the National Lotteries Board or National Lotteries Fund.”

She said at the time the funding application was approved – the month before she started working there – she was not aware of ­Makhaya’s existence.

She also holds directorships in four other companies.

Makhaya’s CEO, Zarko Taric, was aware of the family connection, but denied any conflict of interest.

“Our grant was applied for and approved prior to us hearing about her. Her functions and duties have nothing to do with the National Lotteries Board. Her father had nothing to do with the approval of our grant,” he said.

Asked why she was hired, he said she was the “best candidate”.

Makhaya received two grants totalling R41?078?252 from the lottery’s arts, culture and national heritage distribution agency in the 2010/2011 financial year, the highest amount paid in that ­category.

“Professor Nevhutanda was a member of the Distributing Agency for Arts, Culture and National Heritage only until his appointment as chairperson of the National Lotteries Board on 2 December 2009. He was therefore not involved in the adjudication of this application.”

Professor Nevhutanda did not respond to a request for comment.

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