The South African Lottery – A Big Business

Worldwide, lotteries are big business. They raise billions each year and give away large amounts of charitable funding. But how that money is distributed and who benefits is not always clear. And given the vast amounts of money involved, there is inevitably room for questionable decisions and less-than-transparent funding awards. In South Africa, a consortium of tech, media and funders have come together to explore how national lottery proceeds there have been spent in recent years.

Under South African law, the National Lotteries Commission is mandated to distribute a certain percentage of proceeds to charitable causes. If you want to check the legislation governing this, it can be found via the Indigo Legislation Platform. (Search of Lotteries Act and you’ll soon find the relevant piece of legislation.)

Knowing that the Lotteries Commission is mandated to support a range of charitable activities, a logical next question is ‘what have they funded?’ OpenUp, an Indigo grantee, have now taken all of the funding data published by the Lotteries Commission to produce a searchable database of lottery beneficiaries. It provides an easily searchable and filterable way of accessing that information that charities, journalists, academics and others can use to analyse who gets funded and start to dig into interesting examples or unusual activity.

Since launching the tool, eNCA and others have been using the tool to look at just that. It shows, for example, that sports bodies receive a very significant proportion of lottery proceeds, including payments to the South African FIFA World Cup Organising Committee. In light of revelations about the 2010 World Cup and allegations of bribery against FIFA, funding awards such as this might expect to be subjected to closer scrutiny. A good starting place might be the Parliamentary Monitoring Group’s site. Their site contains debates and documents relating to parliament and various committees, including the National Assembly’s Sport and Recreation Committee.

The new database of Lottery grantees adds another piece to South Africa’s accountability jigsaw. None of the tools here are a magic bullet capable of solving all of society’s ills in one fell swoop, but taken together they are helping to uncover how the state operates and where public money is going. It’s far from a complete jigsaw, but we hope that in the coming months and years, South Africans will find more of the pieces to fit together.

You can get involved by taking a look at the Lottery data and suggesting potential areas of interest to eNCA. Who knows, you might uncover South Africa’s next big news story!

Image courtesy of Ashraf Hendricks/GroundUp (CC BY-ND). Original here.