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- An unfinished, unopened rehab centre in Mpumalanga has received almost R27-million in funding from the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) since 2016.
- This is part of R67.5-million in grants that the Southern African Youth Movement (SAYM), the NPO responsible for the project, has received from the NLC.
- Investigators found a host of irregularities related to the project and recommended criminal charges be brought against SAYM executive director Alfred Sigudhla.
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SAYM scores big from LotteryThe funding for the rehab was part of several grants totalling over R67.5-million doled out to SAYM-related entities since 2016. The grants are all recorded in NLC annual reports under several different variations of the organisation’s name. At the centre of the grants is the involvement of SAYM executive director Alfred Sigudhla, who has enjoyed a close relationship with the NLC and its predecessor, the National Lotteries Board. Both Sigudhla and Sello Pietersen, then-Assistant Program Manager of SAYM, gave evidence to Parliament in support of amendments to the Lotteries Act which included proposals for the introduction of proactive funding. In the years that followed, SAYM would receive tens of millions of rands in proactive funding for several projects. The funded projects include an old age home in Botshabelo, which SAYM says is complete, but which is also still not operational six years after receiving millions in grant funding. It also received R15-million for a musical that was meant to tour three provinces but appears to have only staged a handful of performances in one province. GroundUp has confirmed that all SAYM’s grants are under investigation by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU). Asked about this, Mafisa said that it is the NLC and not the SAYM that is under investigation, but that SAYM has co-operated with all “all state organs and provided information to enable them to take whatever decision is in the interest of law and order”. SAYM told GroundUp that it applied to the Department of Social Development (DSD) for a licence to operate the rehab. But SAYM only sent us a letter from DSD dated September 2017. This letter listed 15 requirements that have to be met before their application would be “considered for assessment and registration”.
Grant hastily approvedAn investigation by audit firm Nexius SAB&T, which was commissioned by Ebrahim Patel, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, uncovered numerous problems related to the rehab grant. The report, which was submitted in September 2021, was recently leaked to GroundUp. “The short time period between the date of the application for funds (19 September 2016) and the award of funds (7 October 2016) suggests intervention from senior NLC officials, as similar applications normally take months, if not years to finalise,” Nexius wrote in its report. Nexius investigators reported several issues they found after a site visit to the rehab in March 2021, by which time SAYM had received almost R22-million. “Photos of the construction were taken during a site visit and it was clear that the value of construction work at the Drug Rehab Centre fell far short of the R22-million that was paid by the NLC [at that time],” according to the report. They also reported that:
- construction work had begun even though the building plans had not been approved by the Mbombela City Council;
- rezoning of the property had not been completed;
- construction was not in accordance with the plans that were presented to the NLC and in many instances existing buildings were merely revamped;
- some of the buildings on the plans submitted to the NLC had not yet been constructed;
- there was doubt whether the SAYM had the required approval to build;
- and there were “vigorous objections from neighbours” as well as “structural issues that may render the continued building operation illegal”, one of which is the lack of water on the property, which is a small farm.
- There was no sign “whatsoever of any sports complex or sporting facilities, although the SAYM appears to have already received R5-million for sporting facilities.”