‘What a waste of money’

2010-12-19 10:39

Theirs is a story shared by thousands of NGOs struggling for survival in a world of dwindling funding and cost cutting.

Like many NGOs, Thembalethu has been forced to scale down operations due to a lack of funds.

It is a community-based organisation that runs home-based care services, programmes for vulnerable children and orphans, community gardens and feeding schemes in 22 villages around Mpumalanga’s Nkomazi area.

For the past two years, it has ­applied unsuccessfully for funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund.

In the past decade, the trust fund has given NGOs like Thembalethu a lifeline through its funding initiatives.

But news this week that the organisation has funded the National Youth ­Development Agency (NYDA) to the tune of R40 million to host a youth and student festival, has left the NGO ­sector fuming.

“What’s the point of funding a festival that the poor people cannot even afford to attend?” asks Thembalethu director Sally McKibbil.

“The fact that we have a social services department does not mean there is no starvation in our villages.

We try to complement what social services does, but we have been forced to cut down our operations to at least 30 families,” she says.

“So you would think that they would fund an organisation like ours instead of a festival that the youth can’t even attend because they are poor.”

Thembalethu’s cost cutting exercise has led to dozens of villagers walking long distances to its offices to ask for food and medical care.

It also had to lay off staff who were mostly teenagers and who came from impoverished villages.

“To get to the villages we need transport, but now we can only reach those closest to us.

It’s a huge disappointment having to turn desperate people away,” she says.

The National Lottery Operator, ­Gidani, has distanced itself from the controversial developments.

“To date, Gidani has R4.6 billion (available),” it said in a statement.

“The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, which is regulated by the National Lotteries Board (NLB), follows a process of inviting applications for funding, assesses them and on such evaluation decides which applicants receive the funds.

“The money then gets paid out.

“As a sequel to certain media reports on the NYDA and funding of the World Youth Festival, Gidani states that it has not provided the said grant.”

The National Lottery Board, which regulates the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, says the grant is in the tradition of its support for major ­national projects.

“The decision is based on the merit of the application and is consistent with other grants made for similar ­requests and purposes,” says NLB chairperson Alfred Nevhutanda.

He says the national and international importance of the event, and the ­impact on local youth development, cultural integration, dialogue as well as promoting unity among the youth of the world were considered.

“Up to 5% of the total amount of R1.5?billion available this year for ­distribution may be allocated under the provisions for miscellaneous grants.

“These are grants for activities that fall outside the main areas funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund or that arise urgently, ­outside the time period when the NLB is taking applications for one of its main areas of funding.

“Other similar projects of national significance funded from the trust fund include the opening and closing events of the 2010 World Cup (R20m), the SKA Telescope (R27m) and the Trust for Health Systems Planning (R82m).

“The grant to the NYDA is split into two tranches and the second will only be released if the NLB is satisfied the first payment was used in accordance with the business plan and is fully ­accounted for.”

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