Lottery shareholders under scrutiny

Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa will re-examine the shareholder interests of all four bidders who applied to run the National Lottery, he said in a statement on Friday.

The decision follows a Pretoria High Court ruling setting aside Mpahlwa's decision to award the lottery licence to preferred bidder, Gidani.

"In as much as I previously examined the shareholder interests in relation to the first preferred bidder... I respect the court's opinion that I did not go far enough," he said.

"In abiding with the court's decision and in an effort to address these matters promptly, I have requested certain information from the four original bidders."

The minister decided this after studying the ruling handed down by Judge Willie Seriti, who found that the process followed by the National Lotteries Board was flawed.

"Having noted this I reiterate that the process followed for awarding the license to operate the National Lottery was fair, rigorous and done with integrity," Mpahlwa said.

He said the four bidders had been approached to find out whether they still wished to be considered as bidders and, if they did, to provide the National Lotteries Board "with complete lists of all their shareholders".

The minister said he was "mindful" of Uthingo's looming March 31 licence expiry date but was confident that with the co-operation of all the bidders, the changeover would be completed on time and without disruption to the National Lottery.

The court on Monday found that the board's failure to obtain information about the shareholders had resulted in Uthingo being recommended as the second preferred bidder despite Education Minister Naledi Pandor - "obviously" a political office bearer - having shares in a company with a stake in Uthingo.

The judge said this finding made it unnecessary to rule on legal argument that the winning Gidani consortium should also have been excluded because its shareholders included two members of the ANC's national executive committee, Chris Nissen and Max Sisulu.

The minister and board insisted that they did not regard the ANC members as political office bearers under the Lotteries Act.

On Friday, Gidani confirmed receipt of the minister's correspondence regarding the matter and was "considering the questions" raised by him.

Meanwhile, the Mail & Guardian Online reported that another bidder, Igwija, led by businesswoman Danisa Baloyi, was taking the board to court to force it to provide documentation showing how Gidani was chosen as the preferred bidder.

Igwija, rated third in the race, said the judgment was a boost for its bid and it would capitalise on the shortfalls of both Uthingo and Gidani to press its claim, the report said. - Sapa

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