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Country analysis > South Africa Last update: 2020-10-26  

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The National Lottery and the non-profit sector

2.1.1 Those pesky applicants: The Lotteries Board and the non-profit sector
At the outset, it must be noted that the report is unable to offer any substantial insight into the day-to-day operations of the Lotteries Board. For a variety of reasons, the Board operates in a relatively non-transparent manner. Very little information is provided to the public regarding the amount of money available for distribution, or the procedures involved in the distribution process. Although two annual reports have been published, these do not satisfy the public demand for accountability, and this reluctance to communicate openly and proactively is largely responsible for the considerable feelings of mistrust encountered in the non-profit sector. Although the Board has promised [May 2002] to set up a website which releases such information on an ongoing basis has been made,46 this has yet to be honoured.

Much of this ill-feeling is attributed to the attitude of the staff at the Lotteries Board. One informant described this as a “siege mentality,” whereby the Board has responded to public criticism by closing ranks and treating all queries and correspondence as an attempt to undermine their powers. Although much of this ill feeling can be traced back to the public outcry over the Agencies initial hesitance to disburse funds, it is hardly constructive to the proper administration and utilisation of money raised through the Lottery.

The Lotteries Board has also been criticised for treating the money raised for good causes as a state resource, to be dispensed as a privilege, as opposed to something that can rightfully be claimed by non-profit organisations providing services to the poor, or addressing social, cultural and sporting needs that the state is unable to fund. In opposition to this, many organisations consulted felt that the non-profit sector has a right to feel entitled to this money. That is why the National Lottery was established, and why the Lotteries Board is given responsibility for maximising the amount of money available to the NLDTF.

The Lotteries Board is aware of such criticism, and has chosen to restrict all contact with the general public to the occasional press release and interviews with its Player Services Media Liaison Officer. On one level, this is understandable, and there are good reasons why certain Board and Distribution Agency members are “shielded” from the public. The success of the allocation process depends on the ability of the Board to make independent, objective decisions. Were the public and hopeful applicants allowed to communicate directly with Agency members, this process would be seriously jeopardised. As such, some of the criticism regarding the Board’s reluctance to discuss specific applications needs to be contextualised. Certainly, Distribution Agency members appear to be grateful for the fact that they are able to operate in a confidential, private manner, and believe that the increased protection offered by the Player Services Media Liaison Office is a good thing.47

Whilst accepting the need to limit certain forms of communication, the public and potential applicants have a right to expect greater transparency from a Board that is established by Act of parliament. If for this reason alone, it is important that the Lotteries Board improve its relationship with the sectors and interest groups it is supposed to serve. Ideally, the Board should seek actively to encourage a healthy, ongoing relationship with the non-profit sector, and develop a common vision as to how the proceeds of the Lottery should be distributed. If this were to occur, the non-profit sector and the state would, in partnership, be able to leverage potentially enormous amounts of money and utilise this in a focussed and constructive manner.

For as long as an “us” and “them” attitude prevails, there can be little hope of this occurring.

  1. Interview with Sershan Naidoo, 20/05/2002. Naidoo assured me the website would be running by early June.

  2. Confidential interview with Agency member.

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