Picture: RAYMOND JOSEPH
Picture: RAYMOND JOSEPH

The DA says it will lay criminal charges against the National Lotteries Commission for allegedly failing to carry out its duties and responsibilities, as well for breaching access to information laws.

The commission, which is tasked with regulating lotteries and the distribution of funds to good causes, has faced numerous allegations of corruption in recent years. It is under fire for failing to disclose grant beneficiaries to parliament’s portfolio committee on trade and industry.

Some parliamentarians have called for its proactive fund, which amounts to about R140m annually, to be probed. 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. Some commission executives have been accused of channelling multimillion-rand grants to non-profit organisations that involved family and friends.

In February, the commission’s board appointed an audit firm to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations of corruption. Trade, industry & competition minister Ebrahim Patel has authorised a separate inquiry into some of the lottery-funded projects.

The DA insists that the commission should provide a detailed breakdown of beneficiaries to parliament, and has accused ANC MPs of protecting it.

The DA said it sought its own legal opinion, which states that the Lotteries Act does not preclude the disclosure by the commission to parliament of the names of fund beneficiaries.

“It is more likely than not that the act requires it. This position is not changed by the Disclosures Act,  the Promotion of Access to Information Act),  the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act,  or regulation 8 of the distribution agency regulations,” the opinion states.

Furthermore, according to the party’s legal opinion, the National Lotteries Commission’s refusal to disclose the names of fund beneficiaries to parliament on the basis that it is prohibited from doing so, is unlawful and an error of law.

DA MP Mat Cuthbert said the party has taken the “extraordinary step of soliciting our own legal opinion after the committee chairperson, Duma Nkosi, failed to present a legal opinion solicited from parliament’s legal adviser, despite it having been requested 28 days ago by him.”

“Notwithstanding Nkosi’s failure to ensure that the National Lotteries Commission is held to account, ANC MPs in the committee fought tooth and nail to remove the item from the meeting’s agenda. Not one member of the opposition parties supported this move.

“We will be laying criminal charges in the coming day’s against the National Lotteries Commission for failing to carry out their duties and responsibilities as per the National Lotteries Act as well as the relevant access to information laws such as the Disclosures Act and the Promotion of Access to Information Act,” Cuthbert said.

Cuthbert said the DA will also approach National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise to lay a complaint against Nkosi.

Nkosi said the DA’s complaints and pronouncements were premature as the portfolio committee would discuss the legal opinion on July 15, he said.

The National Lotteries Commission is yet to respond to a request for comment.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za

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