South Africa: Lottery Boss Paid Almost R2 Million to Stay At Home

27 October 2020

National Lotteries Commission COO Phillemon Letwaba has been on "special leave" since March.

In this time he has earned R1.85 milion according to a written reply to a parliamentary question.

Letwaba is at the centre of several probes into corruption.

National Lotteries Commission Chief Operating Officer Phillemon Letwaba has been paid R1.85 million since being placed on "special leave" in March, soon after the organisation commissioned an investigation into corruption in its own ranks.

This was revealed in a written reply by Commissioner Thabang Mampane to a parliamentary question posed by Mat Cuthbert, the Democratic Alliance's shadow Trade, Industry and Competition minister. Mampane said the sum was based on Letwaba's R265,000 a month cost-to-company salary.

Letwaba earned a basic annual salary of R2,364,000 during the 2018-2019 financial year, according to NLC's latest financial report. His total cost-to-company of R3,372,000 included a R393,000 contribution to his provident fund, a R120,000 travel allowance, a R48,000 cellphone allowance and a R447,000 performance bonus.

He was the second highest paid NLC employee, after Mamapane, who received a total package of R3,596,000. In comparison, President Cyril Ramaphosa earned R3.9 million in 2019.

Letwaba was placed on "leave of absence" after the NLC's board appointed private forensic auditors Sekela Xabiso to conduct an investigation following reporting exposing corruption, maladministration and nepotism involving Lottery funded projects.

The NLC has refused to divulge details of what the investigation is actually probing - and eight months later it is unclear when it will be completed. Previous investigations commissioned by the NLC into itself have cleared the organisation and its staff of any wrongdoing.

After the last NLC investigation gave the NLC a clean bill of health, Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel ordered his own investigation into four projects linked to Lottopreneur lawyer Lesley Ramulifho, and to Letwaba and his family and associates. A dossier with the findings of the investigation into grants of R27.5 million to hijacked NPO Denzhe Primary Care to build a drug rehab near Pretoria has been handed over to police. Three other investigations are almost complete.

Letwaba was also named in a criminal complaint of fraud and racketeering laid by watchdog non-profit The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) in connection with several multi million-rand Lottery grants. The complaints were laid in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act and Proceeds of Crime Act. OUTA also laid a criminal complaint against the Board of the NLC in terms of the Public Finance Management Act and has lodged a complaint against Letwaba with the South African Institute for Chartered Accountants (SAICA).

Stephanie Fick, head of OUTA's accountability division, listed several Lottery grants involving Letwaba, which she says breach SAICA's professional code of conduct.

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