Patel releases National Lotteries Commission's beneficiary lists after month-long wrangle

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Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel.
Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel.
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  • Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel has released the National Lotteries Commission's lists of beneficiaries for 2017/18, 2018/19 and Covid-19 relief. 
  • The NLC had prevented publishing the first two lists since March when the DA requested it.
  • Sanef is concerned about the intimidation of a journalist investigating a story involving an NLC beneficiary. 

The public is entitled to know who benefits from the money the National Lotteries Commission'(NLC) "manages on behalf of the people", Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel said as he tabled the NLC's beneficiaries lists, bringing to an end the months' long wrangle to have the corruption-accused entities' beneficiaries brought into the open.  

Towards the end of the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry's meeting on Tuesday, committee chairperson Duma Nkosi said Patel had written to Parliament on Monday to table the 2017/18 List of Funded Projects, 2018/19 List of Funded Projects and the Covid-19 List of Funded Projects.

The committee instructed the NLC to provide these documents at its meeting of 16 July after a legal opinion to that effect.

This was a reversal from the committee's ANC contingent, who backed the NLC which had refused DA MP Mat Cuthbert's request for the 2017/18 and 2018/19 lists at a heated committee meeting in March.

ALSO READ | Probe into National Lotteries Commission: Cars of witnesses in corruption case 'torched'

In the past, the NLC published the lists, but at that meeting, they claimed it would be illegal to publish it.

This after a slew of reports by social justice news agency GroundUp detailing alleged corruption and fraud in the allocation of the funds to beneficiaries.

After receiving the news from Nkosi, Cuthbert said: "Once again, it seems that the NLC has no respect for this parliamentary committee, because they never seem to meet deadlines and consistently try to evade us with everything in their power".

Nkosi said Tuesday was seven working days since the meeting of the 16th.

DA MP Dean Macpherson said the committee had instructed the NLC to provide them with the lists.

"Why is it coming from the minister?" he asked.

The committee's secretary said the NLC was an entity reporting to the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, and tthat he minister usually tabled documents on behalf of the department.

ANC MP Simanga Mbuyane added that this was how Parliament worked: the entity reports to the department, the department goes to the committee.

"That's how Parliament works in the ANC's mind," Macpherson responded, adding that entities were directly answerable to Parliament and that it was "bizarre" that it was sent through the minister.

'Crisis of leadership'

In his letter to Parliament, dated 27 July, Patel wrote: "In terms of Section 65 (1) (a) of the Public Finance Management Act, 1999 (Act No.1 of 1999), Financial Statement of Entities need to be tabled together with the Annual Reports. It is a norm that the List of Projects Funded by the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) would have also been published in their Annual Reports.

"In the 2017/18 and 2018/19 financial years, the NLC did not table the List of Projects Funded with their Financial Reports. This led to engagement by both the Ministry and Parliament to have the NLC publicly release the List of Projects Funded. It is my view that the NLC accounts must be open and transparent and that the public is entitled to know the beneficiaries of the monies that the NLC manages on behalf of the people".

On Friday Cuthbert had harsh words for Patel due to his inaction on the matter, but in a statement released after Tuesday's meeting, Cuthbert said the DA welcomed Patel's acknowledgement that the NLC must be open and transparent and that the public was entitled to know who the NLC's beneficiaries were.

"However, if it was not for the robust action taken by the DA in Parliament and the efforts of the media to shine a spotlight into the parlous state of affairs at the NLC, this may not have materialised," he said.

He said they would, over the next few days, study the lists to ensure that no beneficiaries - and the amounts disbursed to them - had been redacted or omitted in any way.

"The DA still remains resolute in its belief that the NLC has a committed a crime by having withheld this information from the public domain for such a long period of time," said Cuthbert, who has laid criminal charges against the NLC.

"The NLC’s conduct in this matter has reinforced the impression that it is beset by a crisis of leadership".

Fired

He reiterated his call on Patel to fire the NLC’s entire board with immediate effect.

Meanwhile, the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) over the weekend expressed its concern about the intimidation of a journalist investigating alleged corruption involving lottery funds.

Sanef said in a statement that a correspondent from Limpopo community newspapers Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror had been investigating a story on the National Lotteries Commission’s funding of a non-profit organisation, Vyeboom Youth Development in the province.

"According to Anton van Zyl, publisher of the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror, their correspondent received a threatening phone call on Thursday 23 July 2020 from a person telling him to stop enquiring about the activities at the project. He was told that if he did not stop, he would be followed and hurt," reads the statement.

"Sanef believes it is inexcusable for individuals to threaten the journalist. We trust that the police will give this matter the urgency it deserves and identify the culprits," reads the statement.

Sanef also said it is "disturbed" by the NLC's "reluctance" to release the lists.

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