Phillimon Letwaba. Picture: SUPPLIED
Phillimon Letwaba. Picture: SUPPLIED

Trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel is under pressure to sack the board of the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) following fresh allegations of corruption at the regulatory body.

The commission, which is tasked with regulating lotteries and the distribution of funds to good causes, has faced constant allegations of corruption in recent years. Some parliamentarians have called for its proactive fund, which amounts to about R140m annually, to be investigated.

The commission was empowered to grant funding to worthy causes without the need for applications through a 2015 amendment to its enabling act. This was to address the need by organisations for funding when they did not have the ability to submit formal applications.

Many of the projects funded through the proactive fund are infrastructure projects, such as schools and early childhood development facilities.

In 2018, DA MP and spokesperson on trade and industry Dean Macpherson said that there were problems with the proactive fund, which he said was being used as a “slush fund” to enrich a few people.

On Thursday, after the latest media reports on alleged corrupt activities at the commission, Macpherson called on Patel to dissolve its board with immediate effect and to place it under administration.

“This follows very serious and credible allegations against the board and, in particular, the COO Phillemon Letwaba, relating to multi-million-rand grants made to non-profit organisations (NPOs) that involve family and friends of Mr Letwaba,” Macpherson said.

Some of these allegations, as reported by GroundUp, include an NPO which has as its sole director a cousin of Letwaba and was awarded R11m to build a sports facility in Limpopo. It is further alleged that Letwaba’s brother’s private company was awarded a R15m contract to build a drug rehabilitation centre near Pretoria. After this was revealed he resigned — only for Letwaba’s cousin to take over as the sole director of the company.

A construction company with links to Letwaba was involved in the construction of a R23m old-age home and a R19.6m museum and library in the Northern Cape.

“It has become abundantly clear that the NLC board is unwilling and unable to take action when it comes to allegations of corruption against senior staff members. It also cannot investigate allegations against itself. It is akin to turkeys voting for Christmas,” Macpherson said.

“Therefore, the only option available to the minister is to fire the board, place the NLC under administration and start from scratch. This will allow forensic auditors to do their work and pursue criminal charges against those that have misappropriated funds meant for good causes.” 

Letwaba could not be immediately be reached for response, while the department of trade and industry has yet to respond to request for comment.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za