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Police probing 4 alleged corrupt projects at lottery commission

Police probing 4 alleged corrupt projects at lottery commission

Chairperson of the National Lotteries Commission board, Alfred Nevhutanda and commissioner Thabang Mampane.

Chairperson of the National Lotteries Commission board, Alfred Nevhutanda and commissioner Thabang Mampane.

  • The Department of Trade and Industry authorised investigations into four cases of graft at the NLC.
  • NLC chairperson Alfred Nevhutanda told Parliament he will not resign.
  • He also said if the NLC interpreted the law incorrectly, then “so be it”.

Despite a Department of Trade and Industry probe into the disbursement of lottery funds leading to a police investigation into corruption under his watch, the chairperson of the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) board, Alfred Nevhutanda, says he will not resign.

The department and the NLC briefed the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry on Wednesday morning.

According to the department’s presentation to the committee, it authorised a probe into allegations of graft at the NLC in March 2020, “after numerous articles continued to appear in the media alleging abuse of lottery funding”.

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The probe focused on four NLC Proactive Funding Projects allegedly linked to the COO, Philemon Letwaba, his friends and relatives.

The NLC suspended Letwaba in February, and the committee heard on Wednesday that he was still getting paid.

However, he would not be allowed back at the commission until the investigations were completed.

The investigation focuses on the following allegations:

Denzhe Primary Care: It is alleged that funds were improperly distributed to a hijacked non-profit organisation (NPO), called Denzhe Primary Care, through a Proactive Funding transfer. Denzhe received funding to build a new drug rehabilitation centre and the facility is still incomplete. The amount involved is R27.5 million.

Zibsimazi: It is alleged that the director of Zibsimazi is related to an employee of the NLC. It is also alleged that the company was set up in May 2017 and awarded the funding in November 2017. The amount involved is R4.8 million.

Life for Impact: It is alleged that the NPO has one common director with Zibsimazi. It is alleged that a shelf company was created and awarded the NLC funding six weeks after it was created. The amount involved is R10.1 million.

I am Made for God’s Glory: The NPO received R11 million and it is alleged that R2 million of that was paid to a private company owned by a person related to an employee of the NLC.

The department reported that it was awaiting the appointment of a law firm to provide legal guidance in relation to the implementation of the recommendations.

The Denzhe case is with the police, but the investigations with regard to the other three projects are still in progress.

A report on all the cases is expected by 15 September 2020.

News24 reported in July that the cars of two key witnesses in the department’s investigation into Denzhe were torched.

List

At a heated meeting in March, shortly before the lockdown regulations, DA MP Mat Cuthbert asked for the lists of beneficiaries for 2018-19 and 2017-18.

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

The ANC contingent on the committee supported this view.

After a long battle by Cuthbert, the committee reversed its position and said it wanted the lists, after obtaining a legal opinion that it was not illegal to publish the lists.

In late July, Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel released the lists, including a list of Covid-19 beneficiaries, saying the public was entitled to know who benefitted from the money the NLC disburses.

At Wednesday’s meeting, DA MP Dean Macpherson referred to the corruption investigations and the incorrect assertion that it would be illegal to release the lists, and asked Nevhutanda if he would resign there and then.

“The answer is a big N-O. No,” responded Nevhutanda. “The minister is the one who will tell me to resign.”

He remained unchanged about the legality of releasing the lists.

“We were following the very same law you created in Parliament,” he said. “If our interpretation was wrong, so be it.”

“The list given to you was against your law, not our law.”

Macpherson said it is disingenuous to pass the buck back to Parliament.

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