A former board member of charity organisations is taking on the National Lotteries Board (NLB).

“It’s a crime,” Ralph Freese said in an open letter originally published on Facebook, that the funds collected by the lottery were not being distributed adequately.

Last year, the annual report of the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF) showed that R4.2 billion was available for distribution. Of this, only R3.4bn was spent. In 2009, R3.3bn was available but only R1.4bn was spent, Freese said in the letter, republished as an advertisement in the Sunday Times.

The letter is addressed to Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies.

Freese said he believed the NLDTF was not being run properly, all its money was not being distributed and that NGOs were suffering because of this.

The letter begins: “I am deeply concerned – or more accurately, sick, tired and angry – about the future of the NLDTF and NLB to live up to their mandate. Multiple organisations, vital to the social fabric of South Africa, have been weakened, or suffered complete collapse.”

“It would be simplistic to blame management and staff for all the weaknesses – though inordinate delays and lost documents make this tempting, and many people do…” the letter continues.

Freese, who lives in Cape Town, told The Star that needy organisations were getting less and less money from international sources and were forced to rely on lottery funds to keep them going.

He explained that he was on the board of several NGOs, but had now resigned in order to write this public letter.

“The Lotto has become crudely and crassly inefficient and downright malicious in some cases,” said Freese.

“I worked for an organisation (which he did not want to name in case their funding was compromised by his letter) which does brilliant work. But we waited for two years for our application to get a response. We kept on nagging until we were told that if we kept on calling we would be put at the bottom of the pile and could wait another year.”

In the meanwhile, Freese said he was personally funding the charity and was threatening closure. He found this hard to accept when the lottery fund was not spending its full allotment each year.

Freese decided to spend thousands of rand placing the advert after he had written to the minister, but received no response.

He is planning to send the letter to various websites and at least 5 000 e-mail addresses this week.

On the letter’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/salottery OpenLetter) Freese asks people to relate their own experiences of trying to get funding through the national lottery.

“The letter was aimed at getting two things. The first is to get the minister’s attention so that this can be sorted out, the second is to compile people’s experiences.”

Freese said that in one day, 20 people had contacted him, but said many were scared to post messages on Facebook in case their funding was compromised.

Jean Allan, a Facebook user, commented: “Organisations are afraid to complain in case they are victimised. It is now 16 months since one organisation submitted their December 2009 application, no response received.”

The letter has been noted by the Department of Trade and Industry. Spokesman Clement Manoko said he planned to e-mail Freese this week and set up a meeting with him and the NLB to discover what the issues were. NLB spokesman Sershan Naidoo said the board was running efficiently and every request for funding was responded to.

He said the board received about 7 000 applications each year. The majority were declined as they did not meet requirements.

He said any money not used in a financial year went into a trust account administered by the board, which had donated R15bn to charity, the arts and sports organisations over the years. - The Star