Northern Cape Gambling Board a gambling den!

Boitumelo Babuseng, MPL

DA Provincial Spokesperson on Economic Affairs

The tabling of the Northern Cape Gambling Board’s annual report has revealed serious problems within the board. It seems as though the NCGB is gambling with taxpayers’ money and failing to enforce gambling regulations throughout the province.

The amount paid in board allowances for the past two years shows that board members are treating their positions as day jobs. In the absence of real guidelines for the board, abuse of the system for financial benefit is becoming the norm. The MEC for Finance determines the sitting fees and allowances for board members, which is then published in the provincial gazette. In 2014, for example, the chairperson is paid a sitting allowance of R3 300, the deputy chairperson receives R2 600 and an ordinary member is paid R2 000 a day. However, it does not mean that board members should meet every day just because they can. Remuneration to board members in the previous financial year totalled more than R800 000. This shows that members are not receiving stipends; they are, in fact, drawing salaries from the Board.

The entity is also paying exorbitant amounts, which it can ill afford, to cover travel costs. In 2013 alone, the board incurred travel costs of more than R850 000. This includes trips to Singapore and Las Vegas. What benefits accrue to the Northern Cape from this globetrotting? The Board performs poorly, especially when it comes to ensuring compliance with gambling regulations. It complains about budgetary constraints, yet it can afford for the board members to travel the globe. We are told that the chairperson insists on his travel reimbursements being processed before officials are allowed to go home.

We are not satisfied with the audit outcomes of the Board, which shows that irregular expenditure of R2.3 million has been incurred, that money has been committed that exceeds the available budgets and that suppliers have not been paid within 30 days. The Minister of Trade and Industry recently dismissed board members of the National Gambling Board for incurring irregular expenditure.  NCGB members, however, will face no consequences – they will not be dismissed because they are performing their patronage obligations. The Board is a defendant in a legal claim, which could cost it R2.8 million. They have made no provision for this contingent liability. Being confident of success is no excuse for bad bookkeeping.

The Board complains that there is nothing it can do to shut down illegal gambling dens. They say that the matter has been raised with the MEC, but it was to no avail. It seems that the MEC for Finance does not care about what happens in illegal gambling sites. Illegal gambling often goes hand-in-hand with other illegal activities and we lose money that could have been raised through levies and taxes. Therefore, the department is failing to play its oversight role in this regard.

The DA is concerned about the delay in the construction of the Leitlho Casino in Kuruman. The construction of the Casino has been delayed for more than seven years. It is interesting that the said license was not revoked. The license was initially 100% owned by Meriting Consortium but gradually the shareholders of Meriting have been reduced to 20%. The shareholders of Meriting are not happy with this. They say they were tricked into reducing their shareholding by a controversial local businessman who owns the remaining 80% of the license jointly with MEC for Finance, John Block.

The DA will follow up this matter with questions to the MEC of Finance.