My name is Robin Opperman, and I am the Director of the Umcebo Trust. We run a non-profit art and craft trust, based in Durban. We applied in the most recent Lotto round of applications, and submitted end of February. We received the standard acknowledgements and within the past two weeks were very excited to receive correspondence from Lotto asking for elaboration on a number of issues related to our application.
We were also asked to get invoices for the vehicle and materials we asked for funding for. In addition, we were asked to get an intent to purchase document for the property we wanted Lotto to buy for us. This was a warehouse space, to allow us to accommodate large crafter groups and the associated materials for big orders. We dutifully spent a lot of our time and the time of agents, finding a property and signing an offer to purchase (subject to Lotto funding being granted). All the time, our administrator corresponded with Lotto, keeping them posted, so that they were aware of the progress we were making.
On 22 June they said that it was so urgent that we should courier the documents immediately to them. Of course we were all very excited. On 23 June, as we were about to courier documents, they came back to us, to tell us that our Lotto application had not been successful. They cited, in my opinion, a few minor and easily remedied problems with our constitution, business plan and audited statement. I cannot tell you how angry I was about this. Besides being an enormous waste of our time and the time of all the service providers that we work with, Lotto have also had all the documents in question since February 2009! One would think that before you ask people to get intent/offers to purchase that you would satisfy yourselves that documents you have had for four months are suitable.
Of course, the issues raised by Lotto in the rejection letter are things we will attend to as a matter of urgency. However, what really disappoints me is that Lotto not only gave us the false impression that we were making positive progress towards receiving funding, but also that they did not give us feedback about their initial concerns first - before sending us on a wild goose chase that not only wasted our time, but has also embarrassed us. Just because we are NGOs does not mean our time is less valuable!
As the director of a non-profit, I want to express my frustration at the fact that the people at Lotto - who are public servants, managing public funds - are allowed to be so chaotic and unprofessional. We are essentially talking about public servants who cannot even provide a basic administrative function. We are willing to undergo rigorous selection, and to deal with being rejected with good reason. What I am not willing to do, is to sit by and tolerate the incompetent antics of a group of people who are short changing the NPO sector.
Lotto also embarrasses us with service providers, as we rush about accumulating all manner of documents, which are ultimately never read. Shame on you Lotto for short changing us, the people we serve, and the people whose time we waste in this application process you seem incapable of managing properly.
I am told that if we were granted funding that this would just be the beginning of the problems for us, as we would then have to try and get the monies paid to us, which apparently is something else Lotto often seem incapable of doing.
One need just throw a stone in the NPO community to find similar and worse experiences. As a sector we need to speak out against this. Most people do not say anything as they are either too fatigued, or else afraid of endangering future funding possibilities.
I will not be wasting anymore time with Lotto applications, so I am willing to speak out against this sham. I hope that NGO Pulse readers will speak out about this too, as this is the only way that the extent and the nature of this crisis will be revealed.
Robin Opperman is the Director of the Umcebo Trust.
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