13 September 2017

South Africa: Forensic Investigation Into R14 Million Incorrect Student Payment Must Be Wide Ranging As NSFAS Drags Feet in Roll-Out of 'Student Centred' Funding

press release

In today's Portfolio Committee meeting on Higher Education it was revealed that the Walter Sisulu University (WSU) student who was incorrectly credited with R14.1 million, instead of R 1 400, must have colluded with vendors, bureaucratic officials and others to enable her to receive the funds and then go on an R880 000 spending spree in places as far ranging as East London, George, Queenstown and Centurion.

The Vice-Chancellor of WSU, Professor James Midgley, made clear in his presentation to the Committee, that the expenditure could not have taken place through normal means. Furthermore, the Head of Intellimali, Mr Michael Ansell, made it clear that his company is given the names of approved merchants and even specific items, with whom and on which their funds may be spent. Their cards do not normally work if they attempt to use them to spend in other places or for other items.

It is vital that the planned Intellimali forensic investigation into the matter be far-ranging, and that it include an examination of the role of both the University and Intellimali officials, in order to discover two things:

How the initial transfer occurred, particularly given that Intellimali's own computer records at the time showed a transfer of only R 1400; and

How the student was able to spend money on items, not on the approved list.

Any person found to have been collaborators in the irregular acquisition and spending of the R880 000 by the student concerned, including vendors, should be exposed and punished. Blacklisting of vendors who in this and other cases may be assisting students to abuse their bursary funds is an essential step.

It also became clear during the presentations that the National Student Financial Aid (NSFAS) scheme has largely failed to implement the student-centered SBux scheme, which has long been touted as the means through which students will receive funding directly without the need for middlemen. Only 6 of 21 Universities are using SBux, and they are plagued with problems of

Only 6 of 21 Universities are using SBux, and they are plagued with problems of noncompliance by students, communication issues and many others. The remaining Universities use private providers such as Intellimali to distribute their NSFAS funds. That so many Universities should be dependent on contractors for the disbursement of bursary funds is not acceptable. But Intellimali has developed a reasonably good disbursement system and it is by no means clear that the roll-out of SBux will provide a solution as effective as that developed by Intellimali.

We call upon Minister Blade Nzimande to evaluate the various systems for the disbursal of funding to students, whether they be that devised by Intellimali or SBux, and to see what can be learnt from this debacle and to assess what the best system might be for the future.

Belinda Bozzoli MP

DA Shadow Minister of Higher Education

South Africa

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