No place for corruption, conflict of interest in NLC, emphasises Nene
Greed and power are at the core of corruption and the National Lotteries Board is taking charge of dealing with the scourge in the organisation.
On Thursday, the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) in collaboration with an international-acclaimed intergovernmental economic policy organisation, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), hosted a
virtual conference on anti-corruption and integrity.
The conference was held at Twin Rivers Estate in Centurion in Tshwane where guests were treated to the performance of Ndlovu Youth Choir and Omari Live.
The conference explored new integrity risks, challenges and opportunities that have arisen in the Covid-19 context, as well as identify innovative solutions required to govern and conduct business with integrity, including respect for responsible business conduct standards and tackling corruption in times of crisis.
The NLC was invited to participate in the conference, against the background of its huge responsibility as a government entity that deals with funding for struggling organisations across the country through its funding model, which assists non-governmental organisations to function and provide critical services to communities.
Radio and television personality Aldrin Sampear did a sterling job facilitating the conversation where the conference host, advocate Nompumelelo Nene, the Secretariat of the NLC, spoke boldly of how her organisation is dealing with corruption and focusing on good governance.
The conversation was broadcast throughout the world via a streaming channel where Nene told the conference: “As a National Lotteries Commission, we’re a global innovative regulator. As a regulator, our mission is to assist thousands of South Africans and [to become] the largest funder to the civil society.
“When we deal with corruption as the NLC, zero tolerance for us starts from the top, as we have to maintain good corporate governance practices. We set the tone on zero tolerance on fraud and corruption based on our work ethics.
“Our corporate governance is aligned to global organisations such as the OECD.”
Nene also shared how the NLC has developed a method of measuring conflict of interest and fighting corruption in the organisation by holding itself to highest ethical standards.
“We fund rural and urban communities through our funding model, and through our transparent processes we take corruption activities seriously and act accordingly,” she said.
“There is more to measure corruption and it is our aim to deal with such in order for us to have good governance and also to make sure that we deliver on our mandate, which is helping our communities to thrive through our funding model.
“We do not allow corruption to distract us on our quest to achieve our goal,” she emphasised.
Based on how the NLC operates, the organisation said it acts swiftly to ensure that good governance and a culture of trust is instilled within the structure.
“We have looked and monitored on how conflict of interest had dented our organisation, and through negativity, we have come to the point of conducting an independent forensic analysis in order for us to root out corruption.
“We conduct preliminary investigations and be part of the solution in order for us to assist our communities.”
Bright minds join forces to extinguish the curse of fraud
The National Lotteries Commission (NLC) brings to the fore various methods of clean and effective governance in its quest to help communities through its funding model. Dr Roxana Bratu, a lecturer in corruption analysis at the University of Sussex in England, was invited to address the virtual conference jointly organised by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the NLC.
Speaking from England, Bratu stated that it was important to have a discussion about corruption.
Bratu mentioned the importance of dealing with how to measure corruption, explaining that efforts should be made to make the world a better place for all.
“The abuse of the public office or any other institution for private gain is corruption,” Bratu told the conference.
“This is where corrupt people abuse public power, authority or office through bribery, embezzlement or extortion to enrich themselves. Such behaviour, which deviates from formal duties of a public role due to unduly personal gain, violates rules through misappropriation of funds.”
Bratu said when public officials start enforcing their authority by demanding favours from clients or those who should be assisted professionally on merit, that brings a bigger question on how corruption peddlers are making it difficult for any organisation to work ethically.
“Public tracking surveys [Pets] are effective in delaying financial and in kind transfers, leakage rates and general efficiencies in public spending. Pets trace cases in which public money has either not ended up where it should or cannot be accounted for at all,” she said.
Measuring the risks of corruption in various sectors can also be a good proxy indicator showing how fraud is committed, she added.
NLC secretary Advocate Nompumelelo Nene said the NLC had implemented measures on the experience of corruption and believes that the leadership of the organisation should hold high standards of ethics in order to be accountable at all times.
“The NLC had conducted an analysis of its stakeholder’s real level of interaction with corruption. The assessment was conducted through our whistle-blowing hotlines, where the NLC was able to gauge the public’s experience in relation to corrupt activities over the past three years. It is noteworthy that the NLC experienced a 2% loss on annual revenue due to fraud over the past three years, which was significantly less than the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners benchmark of 5% loss on annual revenue to fraud,” said Nene.
Trust and accountability help cement honest professional relationships
Dr Janette Minnaar, the founder of Pro Ethics, an organisation that advocates for good governance and ethics in government and private sector, joined the conversation organised by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) on Thursday.
The virtual conference in Pretoria focused on corruption and integrity. Speaking at the conference, Minnaar touched on issues aligned to professional standards and also focused on how trust is built when it comes to accountability.
“We build trust when there is congruence between our words and our actions. Trust requires a certain level of demonstrated honesty or integrity. Only when our own integrity and motives are trusted, will clients approach us or stay with us. We therefore have to be intellectually honest in order to earn the trust of others,” said Minnaar.
She highlighted five main steps to apply in the fight against corruption, explaining that it is crucial to understand how rogues can be dealt with when they get involved in illegal activities.
Minnaar said in fighting corruption, there should be prevention, detection, investigation, reporting and prosecution as key factors that can eradicate the rot that is consuming the country.
“There is a duty on persons who hold a position of authority or who knew or ought reasonably to have known or suspected that any person has committed offence in terms of the act or theft, fraud, extortion, forgery or uttering involving more than R100 000 to report it to the police,” she said.
She added that the intellectual honesty requires that a professional demonstrates a high level of care, skill, diligence and good faith in the performance of his/her duties.
“Care means that I am carefully considering all available options and solutions best suited for the client. Good faith means that I will avoid all the conflicts of interest.”
She also focused on the final test for being professional and ethical, stating that in order to know that a person is living up to the highest standard of professionalism and ethical behaviour, such a person “needs to act in accordance with three main imperatives, namely: 1, to comply with all legal requirements; 2, upholding any other relevant rule, code or policy; 3, and to be ethical at all times by acting with intellectual honesty by exercising care, skill, diligence and good faith; and going beyond the demands of laws and rules by doing the right thing.”
Through her discussion, Minnaar also advised the NLC to tighten the screws on anti-corruption and gift policies.
“A well-formulated anti-corruption and anti-fraud policy is a minimum requirement to prevent corruption.
“This should be supplemented by a gift policy, where some guidelines in the gift policy should address issues of how often an employee or an official receives gifts, among others.”
NLC secretary advocate Nompumelelo Nene said the organisation is dealing with complaints by members of the public on issues relating to scams and fraud.
Nene said: “The National Lotteries Commission is also cautioning the public, stakeholders and applicants on a scam that affects the organisation.
“The scam is currently operating in Gauteng and North West. At least 22 of the applicants and other members of the public have been affected by this scam across the provinces.”
She stated that a syndicate, pretending to be employees of the NLC, is targeting many organisations that have applied for funding and promising them many things in an effort to scam them.
She said the NLC is working hard to ensure that the organisation roots out fraud and corruption, which impact negatively on the organisation’s operations.
NLC receives the thumbs up
South Africa has its own successes and weaknesses in the fight against corruption, according to former deputy public protector advocate Kevin Malunga.
Speaking at the virtual conference organised jointly by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) in Pretoria on Thursday, Malunga pointed out that the country has elements and good mechanisms to fight corruption, however, there is a lack of action and successful prosecutions.
“In South Africa, we have open government and internal mechanisms to monitor corruption. We have corruption watch organisations, state-owned anti-corruption units, as well as the media to safeguard our country to possible corruption activities,” said Malunga.
“In that regard, there are a lot of opportunities and implementations in place to deal with corruption.”
He added that the policy framework and implementing and coordinating mechanisms could assist in having a corrupt-free nation.
“I am glad that the NLC joined forces with the EOCD to have this dialogue as the organisation has been taking issues of conflict of interest head on in order for them to have strict measures on fighting corruption, and also to have a clear mandate on their quest to help communities.”
According to Malunga, the challenge facing South Africa is that some of the whistle blowers are also suspect.
“We have whistle blowers but they are also not clean, and it has been proven through the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into allegations of State Capture that some [of the whistle blowers] are as dirty as those they testify against,” he said.
He added that corruption is widespread, both in the public and private sectors, noting there are also many challenges in social development, housing and traffic department, among others.
“We need to look at how corruption cripples the country. I am glad that the NLC brought me in to speak about this and also to educate our people locally and internationally [about the pandemic that we’re facing as a country],” said Malunga.
Anti-corruption, accountability and trust are at the heart of the NLC
Many organisations and communities from disadvantaged, rural and urban areas across the country are reaping the rewards of success and sustainability through the funding they receive from the National Lotteries Commission.
Based on open policy funding, the NLC is has been stringent in placing strict measures to ensure that all good governance guidelines and fair processes are in place to allow various communities and nonprofit organisations to get a fair and transparent opportunity to receive adequate funding when they apply for a grant.
NLC Senior Manager in Governance Communications Mabontle Mokwebo, who was heading of the organising committee for the event, said that the NLC is proud to have reached and engaged stakeholders on a global stage, which sets a precedent for South African public offices to heed the call of ending corruption in their respective organisations. She also mentioned that the NLC is maintaining its support for NPOs, NGOs and NPCs by closely focusing on communities that are neglected, in urgent need of development and need to stay afloat during these Covid-19 times, by fairly distributing funds for good causes in rural areas.
“We are one of the biggest grant funders in South Africa and the only Lottery regulator in the country. Through our primary mandates, we thrive to continue being catalysts for change while maintaining good governance within the organisation.
“Being granted the opportunity to showcase the NLC’s mandate internationally by The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has granted us an opportunity to showcase our governance framework and compare our governance strategies with thought leaders throughout the world.”
World-acclaimed Ndlovu Youth Choir, pictured, Amari Live and Alex Dance Group mesmerized the audience during the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development virtual conference, which was held in partnership with the National Lotteries Commission (NLC).
Through song and dance, the groups celebrated the good cause of fighting corruption, sending out a message that South Africa will one day be free from the grip of corrupt officials.
Local and global viewers, who participated in the virtual conference, held in Centurion in Pretoria, were visibly enjoying the groups’ performances.
The Ndlovu Youth Choir musical director, Ralf Schmitt, expressed the group’s gratitude to be part of the event, which was held on Thursday.
“We are happy to be associated with the NLC on its quest to fight corruption that is destroying our country. This shows that the NLC is seriously fighting this pandemic and this is a great initiative,” said Schmitt.
All stories written by Bongani Mdakane
Photos: MeloMotion Productions