CHANGES to the National Lotteries Amendment Bill allowing the state to operate the lottery for eight years have been adopted by Parliament’s portfolio committee on trade and industry.
The committee adopted the bill on Wednesday despite strong opposition from the Democratic Alliance (DA).
The DA wanted the bill to include stricter conditions limiting the power of the minister to appoint an organ of state as an operator. DA MP Geordin Hill-Lewis said the bill went far beyond its original intention, which was to cater for a situation where there were hitches in the tender process, as happened in 2007.
The original version provided for an organ of state to be given a two-year temporary licence. The decision of the committee flies in the face of concerns by nonprofit organisations over the lottery being made an instrument of government policy programmes.
But African National Congress (ANC) MPs on the committee were adamant expenditure of lottery funds should promote transformation and transfer of skills.
Funding Practice Alliance co-ordinator Janine Ogle said the government seemed determined to run the national lottery "regardless of whether an able private sector licensee exists".
"If the government did not already have in mind that it meant to control this generation of about R2bn in funds annually, they would not be seeking to be allowed to do so vociferously in this amendment bill," Ms Ogle said.
In terms of the bill as adopted by the committee, there would be two scenarios in which the state could take over the lottery. The first, unchanged from the original bill, would be where the minister decides that the private operator was not complying with the terms of its licence, or the licence was suspended, revoked or expired. In this case the minister may appoint any person or organ of state to operate it for up to two years.
The second scenario would be when the minister believed there were "justifiable grounds" not to issue a licence in the normal manner to the private sector and instead licensed an organ of state for a period not exceeding eight years. ANC whip Bheki Radebe said there was no reason for the organ of state to be treated differently from a private operator.
At the DA’s insistence the committee specified the "justifiable grounds" on which the minister could make his decision. These would include considering national policies and priorities; the need to grow local industries and to procure goods from local manufacturers; and the need to transfer skills and technology.