The Department of Arts and Culture says it is shocked by reports from the Living Legends Legacy Programme executive committee that R8m has allegedly been stolen from the organisation.
The programme was launched in 2015 by the Department of Arts and Culture to honour "living legends" in the arts, culture and heritage sector.
The siphoning and alleged theft of the money was revealed during a media briefing held by the committee on Monday.
According to Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa's spokesperson Asanda Magaqa, the trust account is held at FNB, Wierda Valley, Sandton branch.
"I received this news with great shock and disbelief. That such a theft of such grand scale has occurred is in itself atrocious. But that this theft has occurred against this nation's 'Living Legends', our living national treasures whom the Department of Arts and Culture is supporting precisely because as a nation we owe them so much, leaves me in great disbelief," Mthethwa said.
The minister said those responsible for robbing the trust account were "truly shameless".
Department to make R20m contribution
He said the department was working with law enforcement authorities to ensure that the perpetrators were speedily brought to book.
"We have also had honest and frank talks with the 'Living Legends' and we are satisfied that they exercised the caution they did by monitoring the trust account and upon picking up this nefarious activity, brought it to my attention," said Mthethwa.
The department said while it understood that the theft of the money would be a setback for the programme, it would continue supporting it.
"On the contrary, the DAC (Department of Arts and Culture) committed R20m to them (the programme), and this is the amount in total that they will receive this financial year as promised.
"The legends cannot be punished for the crime of those who would wish to derail the magnificent plans they have in the rich legacy they stand to leave subsequent generations and the nation, and in this regard, they will remain supported," Magaqa said in the statement.
She added that the department would continue to put pressure on law enforcement agencies to ensure that the funds were recovered.