South Africa: The Lawyer, the Lottery and Millions in Dodgy Grants

14 December 2018

The National Lotteries Commission (NLC) has launched an investigation into a multimillion rand grant made to a dormant and non-compliant, non-profit organisation.

GroundUp recently reported how Lesley Ramulifho allegedly used a hijacked NPO, Denzhe Primary Care, to get grants totalling R27.5 million to develop a drug rehabilitation centre near Pretoria.

Ramulifho used a second NPO, I Am 4 God's Glory, to obtain a further R11.9 million in funding from the Lottery for another project.

Our investigation into Denzhe also uncovered two payments (totalling R535,240) paid from Denzhe's bank account towards two Ocean Basket franchises Ramulifho owns (see page 13) at Carnival City and Carnival Mall in Gauteng. The only substantial money paid into the bank accounts came from the Lottery.

In response to questions about whether the matter had been reported to SAPS or any other official body to investigate, the NLC's head of communications, Ndivhuho Mafela said: "With regards to Denzhe, the NLC has instituted an investigation to determine whether there was any ... breach of the grant agreement." NPOs could be "blacklisted" and be prevented from receiving further Lottery funding in line with the NLC's "delinquent policy" if they were found to be in breach of the conditions of their grants.

"The policy also addresses punitive measures to be taken against any organisation that fails to protect NLC funds and/or refuses or fails to take action against those who have abused and/or fraudulently misdirected and/or misused NLC funding," Mafela said.

The website of Ramulifho Inc carries claims of extensive work for government, including drafting legislation for different departments. Significantly, it boasts that Ramulifho has done work for the Department of Trade and Industry, under which the National Lotteries Commission falls. It also claims that Ramulifho has done work for the National Lotteries Board (NLB), the predecessor to the NLC.

Ramulifho is no stranger to controversy. He has previously been linked to a dodgy bid for an SAA tender in 2015. And in 2012, a forensic audit found evidence of fraud and corruption after Ramulifho allegedly overcharged the Pan African South African Language Board (PanSALB) by R1-million for work he did for it.

But on his firm's website and Facebook pages, a letter (on a PanSALB letterhead and purportedly signed by then acting CEO M Zwane) exonerates him of any wrongdoing. It says: "after a ... thorough investigation by Resolve Group, it appears that the allegations of overbilling were incorrect and I wish to confirm that it would appear the fault was systematic and internal."

But attorney Peter Harris, who conducted the investigation for Resolve, said: "We could not exonerate Mr. Ramulifho because we never investigated him. Our mandate was simply to investigate PanSALB. We certainly never issued any letter clearing Mr. Ramulifho."

The Gauteng Law Society (GLS) has confirmed that Ramulifho is in good standing and his law firm has a valid 2018 licence to practice.

An attorney acting for Ramulifho, KR Elliott, said in an email: "We take note that Mr.Joseph stated that he intends to publish a follow-up article tomorrow without providing our clients any chance to comment or to have insight into any allegations. Should this article repeat the allegations of the previous article and be published, then our clients will take steps against your publications to protect their Constitutional rights. Any damages will then be punitive."

More about Lotto

How a hijacked organisation scored millions from the Lottery 22 November 2018

Living on a lottery prayer 01 March 2018

West Coast Fossil Park: A lottery success story 22 February 2018

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