Sascoc chief in Lotto trouble

04 December 2011 - 04:04 By WERNER SWART

THE country's most influential sports administrator is under fire over claims that his company received commission on a R26-million Lotto grant to Cycling SA.

Gideon Sam is a director of sports marketing company, Accelerate Sport SA, which helped the sports body when they applied for a grant from National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund's distributing agency on sports and recreation.

But Sam, the president of the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), also chairs the agency's sports and recreation unit which allocates lottery funds to sport organisations.

On Friday, Sam denied any wrongdoing saying he had recused himself when the application came up for discussion.

He said he was a non-executive director in the company and therefore not involved in its day-to-day operations.

The Department of Sport and the National Lotteries Board (NLB) confirmed Sascoc had alerted them to the claims of a conflict of interest against Sam.

Accelerate Sport SA's marketing director, Gary Grant, confirmed it assisted Cycling SA in its application for Lotto funding. The company, whose other directors are former SA Rugby bosses Rian Oberholzer and Songezo Nayo, said it was so far paid R162223 for their work on the application.

But yesterday, the organisation said in a statement it would pay commission only on 50% of the Lotto payment and that the overall commission due to Accelerate would not exceed R1-million of the R26-million grant.

Cycling SA claimed all payments to Accelerate would come from its "operational budget" - but a senior sports administrator scoffed at this claim, telling the Sunday Times: "If they pay it from the Lotto money or from their other income, it's one and the same thing."

Sascoc CEO Tubby Reddy confirmed that "certain allegations" have been brought to their attention.

Reddy said: "We had to give them [the Sports Department and NLB] an indication of the inferences that have been made. I must be very clear that we are not saying the president [Sam] did anything wrong, we merely had to report it."

NLB chairman, Professor Alfred Nevhutanda, confirmed he was aware of the allegations against Sam. Nevhutanda said: "We will now look at the contents of the allegations first and then the matter will be dealt with by the board."

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula's spokesman, Paena Galane, said "the matter is being discussed internally".

Galane said Reddy had already met with the department's director-general, Alec Moemi. The Sunday Times has learnt that the red flag was raised when, after Accelerate signed on Cycling SA in May last year, the federation's Lotto grant tripled from R8-million over the past three years toR26-million for the next three years.

But Sam maintains that he declared all his business interests to the NLDTF and recused himself when funding for organisations in which he has a stake came up for discussion.

"I've resigned myself to the fact it is always going to be an issue. But you need people with knowledge of sport to serve on the committee," he said.

He said cycling was one of the sports the agency felt deserved more money in the build up to the 2012 Olympic Games. Accelerate'sGrant said it helped Cycling SA "to decide on which [of its] projects and focus areas to prioritise in the application".

Grant and Cycling SA president Greg Till denied that the company was paid a percentage of the Lotto grant, saying it was merely given "a fee" from its operational budget.

But NLB spokesman Sershan Naidoo said the board "discouraged" the use of outside consultants taking a piece of the Lotto cake. "We discourage the use of consultants who charge a percentage of the grant received," Naidoo said.

On Sam's dual role as a director of Accelerate Sports SA and chairman of the distributing agency, Naidoo said it was up to the member to declare his interests and they would then have to "recuse himself from the adjudicating process". Asked about Sam's involvement in the awarding of the grant, Till said: "It has been explained that he managed the conflict of interest, and it was made clear that his involvement would in no way influence the outcome of the allocated amount."

Said Sam: "In terms of cycling, whether I was there or not, they would have gotten that amount.

"We decided before that some sporting organisations would get category A status to prepare them for London 2012 ... including cycling."