MBOMBELA – A international investigation has been ongoing for the past two years into the global lottery industry. The project involved 60 people from 10 countries working in journalism and civic tech organisations in Africa, Europe and the United States.
South Africa’s team is led by Raymond Joseph. He has worked in senior editorial and executive positions on a wide variety of daily and weekly national and regional publications. Last week his South African team, including Roxanne Joseph, Adi Eyal, Siphe Macanda, Anton van Zyl, Jeff Lowenstein, Damien Schlechter, Daniela Lepiz and Khadija Sharife, won the prestigious Western Cape Regional Vodacom award for data journalism.
His entry “Gaming the Lottery” was the winner.
What they uncovered is extensive misuse of lottery funding since the first grants to “good causes” were made by the South African Lottery in 2002. Thousands of organisations have received funding of over R24 billion. What the team discovered was that many questionable recipients of lottery funding in the country have received tens, even hundreds, of millions of rand, but often have meagre results to show from that public investment.
Lowvelder recently became part of their investigative team, making it 61 people in the world looking into the lottery funding.
The most innovative aspect of the project saw the creation of a tool to allow readers to explore the data underlying the stories.
Since the first grants to “good causes” were made by the South African Lottery in 2002, thousands of organisations have received funding totalling over R22 billion.
Lists of successful funding applications are published each year in the annual reports of the National Lottery Commission (NLC).
There are four categories under which grants are awarded: charities; arts, culture and national heritage; sport and recreation; and miscellaneous.
But checking through the printed lists of grants is time-consuming and not easy to do, so few people, including journalists, ever do so.
So we’ve made it simple to check who received funding, when and how much using a simple tool built by OpenUp, a Cape Town-based civic tech organisation dedicated to transparency.
All the data in the tool were scraped from the official NLC annual reports.
Be aware that, while in some cases we have cleaned up the data, grantees are sometimes listed in the tool as they appear in the NLC’s annual reports. This means that grants to a single organisation may be listed under several different names.
We recommend that you start with the name of an organisation and then try keywords in its name, as well as possible variants of the name: eg. South African and SA Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals alternatives when searching for a beneficiary to ensure that you include all grants.
If an organisation has an acronym, in this case, SPCA, search for that too. Or if looking for a school or schools and are not sure of their exact names, begin your search with “school” and then search through the results for the one/s you’re looking for.
We’ve dug through the data to find stories about the lottery and some recipients. We invite you to do the same by visiting https://goo.gl/mUkQLh and if you find anything you think we should follow-up on please send an email firstname.lastname@example.org.