Recipient of R7m in Lottery money won’t say what it’s for
Mystery company is run by prominent businesswoman Carol Bouwer.
First published in GroundUp.
The directors of a mystery non-profit company which has received more than R7-million in Lottery funding have refused to say what the company does.
Carol Bouwer, a former Generations actress and talk show host turned businesswoman, is one of three directors of Venalor NPC. The other two directors are Athina Christians and Hazel Sithole. Venalor received R4.7 million in Lottery funding in the 2018/2019 financial year, and R2 million and R292,300 respectively in August and November 2019.
The company also received a R100,000 grant from the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) Covid-19 relief fund, intended to help non-profit companies “struggling to stay afloat during this time”.
That means that Venalor received a total of R7,064,480 between 2018 and 2020.
But it is unclear what Venalor, which was registered as a non-profit company in 2012, does. GroundUp has searched the Internet using multiple search engines and found no website for the company or any online activity or accounts in its name on social media platforms. We have attempted to visit the company’s premises, but security guards told us we had to make an appointment.
Responding via WhatsApp, Bouwer failed to answer questions sent to her by email. These included queries about the type of business Venalor is engaged in, a request for links to the company’s website and social media accounts, and links to any online publicity about the funded projects. Bouwer was also requested to share the questions with her fellow directors, but neither responded.
Bouwer said only: “…we have signed a grant agreement with the NLC, so everything about our projects is contained in the progress reports we have submitted to NLC. Furthermore we not only have widespread media coverage of the funded projects — all bearing NLC branding so our clients may be aware of the support, but we also use social media to create visibility of their support.
“As an organisation we are proud of our record of being change agents when it comes to the arts, women empowerment, and support towards marginalised groups, including the LGBTIQ + communities.
“With regards to the Relief Fund for the distressed organisations, we refer you to the call for the relief fund by [the] NLC and its purposes.”
When GroundUp repeated our request for further information on Venalor, Bouwer did not reply.
Questions emailed by GroundUp to Ndivhuho Mafela, the NLC’s head of communications, were ignored. These included a request for details of the Venalor projects funded by the Lottery. Receipts showing the email had been read were received from both Mafela and Gugulethu Yako, the NLC’s legal manager.
According to Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) records, Venalor shares premises with Carol Bouwer Productions and several other of Bouwer’s companies in a listed building in Church Square in Cape Town.
Bouwer is an active director of 24 different companies involved in a variety of activities, according to the CIPC. These include TV productions and events planning, luxury goods like designer handbags and bespoke cutlery, arts awards, and trade and investment companies.
Carol Bouwer Productions featured in a scathing Public Protector Report into a R70-million splurge on memorial services for Nelson Mandela in Mpumalanga after his death in 2013, which Bouwer’s company organised. Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found that while the company was paid R44.2 million and had paid other service providers, there was no evidence to show how much these had received.
Mkwebane found that the Mpumalanga Office of the Premier “irregularly appointed” Carol Bouwer Productions and ruled that “the entire” R70 million spent on the memorials was “irregular” as Treasury guidelines and the Public Finance Management Act had been breached. In addition, Carol Brouwer Productions had never received an official letter of appointment.
In 2015 City Press reported how Mpumalanga director-general Nonhlanhla Mkhize had appointed Carol Bouwer Productions, which had charged R8.2 million for the main event alone. Other charges by the company included R2.9 million for “infrastructure”, R1.4 million for audio, a R2.3 million management fee, and a R782,000 “contingency fee”. Carol Bouwer Productions also claimed R3.6-million for 100,000 T-shirts and R2.1 million for 500 000 bottles of water.
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