The board of the embattled National Lotteries Commission (NLC) has appointed an audit firm to conduct an independent investigation into allegations of corruption which have rocked the organisation.

NLC chair Alfred Nevhutanda said on Monday that the board had resolved to appoint audit firm SekelaXabiso to lead an investigation into allegations of improper use of funds raised by the organisation and  intended for charitable causes.

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, including schools and early childhood development facilities.

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

The latest corruption allegations implicate NLC COO Phillemon Letwaba. He is accused of channelling multimillion-rand grants to non-profit organisations that involved his family and friends.

Last week, DA MP and spokesperson on trade and industry Dean Macpherson called for the board to be dissolved. He also called for an urgent meeting of the trade and industry portfolio committee to get to the bottom of the corruption scandal “which has consumed the NLC and threatens to derail it”.

“This follows further allegations by (news agency) GroundUp that Letwaba’s wife, Rebottle Malomane, was granted R4.8m in grant funding in 2017. Investigations have revealed that Malomane’s NGO, Zibsimanzi, a shelf company, received the grant without anything to show for it,” Macpherson said.

The NLC board said it had invited journalists and the public to bring forward evidence of recent corruption claims.

“The appointment of SekelaXabiso also serves to reassure those that may have concerns to report, of the independence of the process. SekelaXabiso will receive information, documentation and any other evidence directly.… It is important to note that this appointment is in addition to the NLC’s hotline for the public to report any suspicious activity around regulating and funding of lotteries, where callers may remain anonymous,” the board said in a statement.