The Department of Trade and Industry (Dti) presented the draft Lotteries Amendment Bill to the portfolio committee on Trade and Industry in Parliament.
This Bill is long overdue. For several years South Africans working in the non-governmental organisation (NGO) sector and the Democratic Alliance (DA) have raised the alarm on several matters of serious concern over the way in which funds are distributed and the National Lotto Board (NLB) is run.
But, the Bill still contains some big gaps that need to be filled if the Lotto is to be transparent, corruption free and beneficial to all South Africans. The DA will work for several important amendments to the draft Bill, including:
Firstly, the Bill allows Minister Rob Davies to licence a government department or state-owned enterprises to run the lotto, based on ‘justifiable grounds’ and ‘government priorities’. This definition is far too unclear and opens the way for abuse, inefficiency and corruption. The grounds on which the Minister may do this need to be clearly and strictly defined to ensure that the state only takes over the management of the Lotto in situations where the licensee is unable to perform the job;
Secondly, the DA will push for the inclusion of mandatory time frames for grant decisions. NGOs have long bemoaned the fact that they wait months and even years for a reply to their funding applications, which jeopardises the good work that they do in communities across the country. The Bill should bind the distributing agencies to replying to applications in 60 days or less;
Third, the ‘miscellaneous’ category of grants should be done away with. It is this category that has been the source of most of the controversial grants made over the past few years, including the R40 million grant to the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) International Youth Festival and R1 million to Congress of the South African Trade Unions (COSATU) for their birthday party. The definition of what constitutes ‘miscellaneous’ funding allows the distributing agency complete discretion to fund whatever it likes, which results in poorly considered and controversial grants;
Fourth, the legislation must make provision for multi-year funding applications by NGOs who rely on funding certainty over time periods of more than just the current one year. Many NGOs wish to invest in expensive capital equipment or facilities, but cannot do so because of the lack of any firm funding commitments over the medium term. Currently, the distribution agencies only consider multi-year applications from sports and arts bodies, but not from social charities which deliver crucial social services in poor communities. This severely limits their ability to invest and so the quality of the services they provide.
Poverty, and the government's inability to deliver basic services, has left millions of South Africans dependant on NGO assistance.
We believe that, if the reforms outlined above are incorporated into the National Lotteries Amendment Bill, they will make a significant impact on the NLB's functioning, and the financial security of many NGOs.
This will finally enable the NLB to become a force for social upliftment, rather than a vehicle for political patronage.
- Geordin Hill Lewis, Democratic Alliance’s shadow minister of trade and industry.