Sports and Recreation Minister Makhenkesi Stofile has called for leaders of the Olympics governing body to step down from the National Lottery Distribution Agency (NLDA).
Those he wants removed are Gideon Sam, president of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), president of Triathlon South Africa and the chairperson of the NLDA; Sascoc vice-president Hajera Kajee, who also serves in the NLDA; and Sascoc’s chief financial officer and the treasurer of Volleyball South Africa, Vinesh Maharaj.
The NLDA pays out substantial amounts of money to Sascoc for the funding of different sporting confederations. Sascoc, as the mother body of these confederations, then sits to decide how much each sport should receive from NLDA funds.
The minister has cited a conflict of interest in their dual roles as members of both the NLDA and Sascoc.
Speaking to the Mail & Guardian last week, Stofile said: ‘I see this as a conflict of interest and have advised the department of trade and industry [DTI] to replace them in the NLDA with people who hold no posts in Sascoc.â€
Stofile’s request comes after Sascoc announced a R400-million lottery grant last month to finance preparations for the 2012 Olympics in London.
Parliament’s sport portfolio committee chair Butana Komphela backed Stofile last week when he accused the Sascoc leadership of using the lottery to ‘destroy sport and create wealth for themselvesâ€.
Komphela told the M&G that there is a ‘serious conflict of interestâ€ within the Sascoc board. ‘You give with this hand and receive with the other and that cannot happen.
‘We will not allow this to continue and intend to resolve it,â€ said Komphela.
He alleged that federations with leaders who enjoyed double roles got considerably larger chunks of NLDA funds. ‘Federations headed by Sascoc officials get more money and the officials themselves receive a 10% commission from the R400-million. I have heard they are going to get this commission.
It is totally unethical. You cannot serve where you have a vested interest,â€ said Komphela.
‘Sam wants to be a referee and a player at the same time. People who adjudicate the lottery funds should be neutral. Federations that differ with Sam when he is at Sascoc are obviously going to suffer the consequences when they apply for funding,â€ said Komphela.
Stofile echoed these sentiments. ‘We think this will adversely affect federations that differ with these leaders who have dual roles, hence our opposition all these years.â€
It appears Stofile and Komphela are the only critics of the way in which NLDA money is handled. The federations were reluctant to take a stand on the conflict of interest allegations levelled against their mother body.
Athletics South Africa president Leonard Chuene told the M&G that dealing with Sascoc is a challenge. ‘No one has talked to us about the R400-million. We just heard about it in the media. This makes it difficult to approach other potential donors. Our leaders need to get their act together.â€
‘People will always talk’
Swimming SA boss Jay Naidoo pointed out the dilemma they face. ‘We would like to get more funding for our programmes. However, we need people who understand sport and if we say they should be removed, there is the risk of getting people with no expertise in sport.â€
Speaking ahead of Sascoc’s presidential elections last year, Sam had said he would step down from the NLDA if he won. In his response to the M&G Sam said: ‘We had people who resigned from the distribution agency and I had to stay on. In fact there is nothing in the constitution of Sascoc that says you cannot serve in the distribution agency. People will always talk,â€ he said.
Kajee said she does not see any conflict of interest. ‘I normally recuse myself from the meeting during an adjudication that is related to table tennis. People are just making an issue out of nothing. They need to understand that we were elected to these positions.â€
The possibility of Sascoc leaders being caught up in a conflict has also been a source of concern to the National Lotteries Board (NLB). Board chair Joe Foster raised it early last year with the portfolio committee on sport.
Minutes from the committee’s meeting at the time read: ‘The National Lottery Board highlighted the potential cases of conflict of interest among its board members who were also serving as executive members of sport federations. Some sport administrators from Sascoc were members of the distributing agencies who had to adjudicate on applications from their own sport federations. It remained a matter of great concern to the National Lottery as it impacts on principles of good corporate governance.â€
Foster told the M&G that ‘this issue has always been brought up but there is nothing we can do as the distribution agency members are appointed by the minister of sport and the minister of trade and industry. Moreover, we cannot overturn decisions taken by the distribution agencies.â€
Speculation is rife that Sascoc leaders still have an influence on the adjudication process even when they recuse themselves. Another NLB board member, who asked not to be named, said being absent from the meeting did not stop Sascoc members from influencing the distribution of more funds to federations they lead.
‘Either way they still get their way. Their federations end up with more money as colleagues rubberstamp their requests. Those who distribute funds should be permanent employees of the National Lottery Board and must not belong to any federation,â€ said the official.
According to Stofile, his ministry has no power to fire the Olympic committee leaders from the NLDA. ‘The DTI is responsible for such decisions while we can only advise,â€ he said. Efforts to get comment from the department of trade and industry proved fruitless.
Komphela said the portfolio sport committee would take up the matter with Mnyamezeli Booi, the African National Congress (ANC) chief whip, or with ANC president Jacob Zuma.