National Lottery Threatens Media Outlet for Questioning Grant Allocations
South African journalist, Raymond Joseph, has been threatened with charges by the National Lotteries Commission over articles he wrote that questioned which organizations the Lottery funded. However, Raymond and his employer, the news organization Ground Up, refused to remove the content and said that they would not stop writing the stories.
“The NLC … demanded that GroundUp remove 16 stories from its website, many of which exposed incompetence and probable corruption involving multi-million rand Lottery-funded projects,” it was written on GroundUp’s website recently.
The editor of GroundUp, Nathan Geffen said: “We have already responded to them and said we’re not going to take anything down.”
In the meantime, the National Lotteries Commission has appointed an independent investigator in the hopes that it can prove that Joseph and GroundUp’s allegations regarding the misappropriation of funds were false.
Raymond Joseph’s articles centered around the allocation of National Lottery funds to certain non-profit organizations. They claim that the NLC, which is meant to be regulated by the Department of Trade and Industry, did not vet the NPO’s in question. It was also alleged that the some NLC directors received funding from NGO executives.
The NLC claims that the names of Lottery funding recipients need to be kept a secret, and the entity demanded that names be removed from the reports. It has threatened to lay criminal charges against the journalist and GroundUp for allegedly contravening Regulation 8 of the Lotteries Act.
GroundUp has argued against these demands put in legal letters to the organization, saying that information about the funding should be open, transparent, and available for the public to see.
One of Joseph’s articles highlights the story of a boxing promoter who was paid R28 million by the NLC for a construction project in a school in Vuwani. The problem was that the man had no experience in construction whatsoever and, as a result, many sections of the new classrooms that he and his team built needed to be propped up because of extreme structural issues. GroundUp questioned why this particular person was chosen to do the job that he clearly had no experience with.
In a public statement, the NLC directors said that, as a board, it refuted the serious allegations made on its internal controls and funding processes.