South African Gambling Board Members Respond To Corruption Allegations

Spokesperson suggests politics may be behind the Board's suspension

The suspended chair of the South African National Gambling Board, Linda de Vries, has shrugged off claims of high level corruption, maladministration, wasteful expenditure, intimidation and the destruction of evidence which resulted in the Minister for Trade and Industry suspending the entire board almost two months ago and ordering a full forensic investigation (see previous InfoPowa report).

Writing to the Business Day newspaper on behalf of her suspended fellow Board members, De Vries showed no signs of remorse and accused the Minister of political motives in suspending the Board members and appointing caretaker administrators whilst investigations take place.

She claimed that the Minister took action against the NGB members because they refused to accept his nominee – Tumelo Baleni – to join the Board.

"We cannot help but believe that the minister's haste was linked to a secondment agreement prepared in July 2014 in terms of which the Department of Trade and Industry attempted to second one of its employees with disregard to the fiduciary process of the board to the National Gambling Board," she wrote.

Baleni is one of the two administrators appointed by the Minister as NGB caretakers.

Further accusing the Minister of "hasty and unreasonable" decisions which had tarnished the reputations of Board members, De Vries alleged that both the Minister and parliamentary committee chairwoman Joan Fubbs had refused to meet with the suspended members to discuss the issue.

The letter was published the day before the Minister was scheduled to explain to MPs the reasons for the suspensions pending the outcome of a forensic investigation.

De Vries additionally speculated that the action against the NGB members may be related to the Minister's departmental rationalisation initiative, which would see the NGB absorbed into the DTI, an intention which the Board members have opposed.

Regarding millions of Rands spent on international travel despite the NGB incurring serious losses, De Vries suggested that the amount was "miniscule" in relation to the overall value of the South African gambling industry, and was necessary for the Board to do its job.

She also appeared to brush off suggestions that the 46 percent pay increases members voted for themselves for 2013-2014, saying these were justified by the increased number of board meetings required, and that the unauthorised [by Treasury] overdraft facilities obtained by the Board were necessary for it to continue operating beyond its budget

De Vries strenuously rejected all the allegations made against the Board.

The Minister had not reacted to the statement when InfoPowa went to press late Thursday, beyond a spokesman confirming that the forensic investigation is underway.

Online Casino News Courtesy of Infopowa

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