Chief operating officer of the National Lotteries Commission Philemon Letwaba. Picture: NLC

Parliament - The chief operating officer of the National Lotteries Commission (NLC), Philemon Letwaba, has agreed to take leave until the beginning of March amid allegations of corruption involving millions of rands in charity funds, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Wednesday.

"The Democratic Alliance has reliably learnt that... Philemon Letwaba has taken voluntary leave with immediate effect until March 1, 2020," DA trade and industry spokesman Dean Macpherson said.

"This comes after the NLC has finally relented from pressure from the DA and the public that an independent forensic audit must be conducted into the crisis-hit commission over dodgy payments to friends and family, including the wife of the COO."

The department of trade and industry did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation.

Macpherson said granting Letwaba leave with immediate effect was a "step in the right direction" but that trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel should go further and fire the NLC board, and place the entity under administration.

The commission, which regulates lotteries and distributed funds, has been hit by allegations of improper use of funds destined for charities.

Letwaba has been accused of shifting multi-million rand grants to non-profit organisations in which his friends and family have a hand.

Earlier this month, the NLC appointed an independent audit firm to investigate the allegations against it.

It is also embroiled in a dispute with social justice news organisation GroundUp. The NLC has made headlines for threatening to sue GroundUp and a freelance contributor, veteran journalist Ray Joseph, unless it removed stories critical of the commission from its website.

The reports include claims that R4.8 million flowed to an organisation linked to Letwaba's wife, Rebottle Malomane.

GroundUp has refused to retract its stories and the NLC's demands have been condemned by the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef). 

African News Agency/ANA