THE Funding Practice Alliance (FPA), a Cape-based association of three community organisations, has expressed serious reservations about the Lotteries Amendment Bill, which is currently the subject of parliamentary public hearings.
The bill is mainly aimed at accelerating and streamlining the process of approving applications and the disbursement of grants, but would also give the trade and industry minister the right to authorise an organ of state to conduct the national lottery for a maximum period of two years. In making such a decision, the minister would have to take into account "national government plans or priorities".
Addressing Parliament’s trade and industry committee on Wednesday, FPA co-ordinator Janine Ogle said: "If in fact a decision has been made by the government that National Lotteries Distribution Trust Fund funds will now be used as budget relief for the state, then we request clarification on how and when this decision was made.
"I think we can all agree that the decision to divert an average of R2bn of funds from one sector to another is not a simple decision nor is it one to take lightly," she said.
The implication of this approach was that the work of civil society organisations was not aligned with government priorities, whereas they were established for the public good.
"The FPA would like to clarify that the purpose of civil society organisations is not to implement government plans and priorities.
"The allocation of funds from the National Lotteries Distribution Trust Fund strictly according to ‘national plans and priorities’ would change the entire nature of the civil society sector in South Africa as organisations would no longer look to communities to assess the greatest needs of society."
Another point of the bill which the alliance found "very concerning" was that it would allow the National Lotteries Commission to approve grants without an application being lodged.
The aim of the amendment would empower the National Lotteries Board to become "proactive" in identifying worthy causes that may require funding and that fell outside the specified categories of funding which it was traditionally confined to.
She said the alliance strongly objected to this proposal, which was considered "bad funding practice" in the donor community and in the civil society sector.
"Organisations should always submit an application indicating need and activities/projects or programmes that will take place should they receive funding.
"As it stands this clause would mean that the National Lotteries Commission will be distributing funds based on verbal agreements."
She said civil society organisations were best placed to know the needs of communities and therefore it would not be necessary for the commission to conduct research to determine them.
However, African National Congress MPs stressed the need to gather resources in support of government’s National Development Plan.