South Africa: Higher Education Committee Briefed On Allegations of Maladministration at NSFAS

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The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology today met with the National Education and Health Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to consider a submission by the union on allegations of corruption and maladministration at the financial aid scheme.

In its submission to the committee, Nehawu makes wide-ranging allegations and claims that since the arrival of the Administrator over two years ago, there has not been any significant change at the organisation, and that NFSAS was at a far worse situation than it was before the Administrator came.

Among the many allegations that Nehawu makes is that the Administrator appointed his friends and associates to senior positions at NSFAS, some without following proper recruitment procedures, and that he is engaged in a reign of terror in the entity in that he victimises and purges targeted employees, especially those who refuse to participate in his unlawful activities, and that there is non-compliance with statutory requirements.

The workers' union also raised concerns about the exorbitant remuneration and benefits paid to the Administrator and his team of advisors, including free accommodation at luxury apartments at the V&A Waterfront, weekly return tickets, monthly unlimited car hire and airport shuttles and transfers with dedicated chauffeurs.

Of grave concern to the Committee are allegations that the Administrator misled Parliament on several occasions. The unions allege that the Administrator misled Parliament on three (3) occasions. On the first occasion when created an impression that he is the one responsible for the cancellation of the VBS Mutual bank contract when in actual fact it was cancelled by the previous board. On the second occasion the union claims that he misled Parliament when he created an impression that NSFAS has moved from SBUX payment system to NSFAS eWallet when in actual fact the two are actually two platforms by the same system. The last occasion is the claim by the unions that the Administrator misled Parliament by stating incorrect reasons for the delay in the tabling of the last year's annual report.

The committee views these allegations in a serious light. In this regard, the Administrator has requested to be given space to verify certain information and come back to the committee at a later stage. The committee will also investigate further to verify these allegations.

Dr Carrollissen told the Portfolio Committee that he did not agree with the allegations and that he and his colleagues were determined to protect their rights and reputations, and therefore will cooperate with any legitimate process that may be instituted to get to the bottom of these allegations.

Committee Chairperson, Mr Philly Mapulane, said "contrary to general denials, some of the issues raised have merit and NSFAS has actually conceded in its own submission to the committee that indeed there has been irregularities in the appointment of certain employees".

In view of the fact that NSFAS could not provide detailed responses to specific allegations, the committee felt that it is important to schedule a follow-up meeting in order to further deliberate on the issues.

"NFAS is a very important entity in our society which is responsible for the disbursement of almost R40 billion to students from poor and working-class families, we cannot allow it to fail, it belongs to the people of this country, all of us have got the responsibility to make sure that it succeeds," said Mr Mapulane.

On the allegations of possible tender irregularities on the procurement of laptop computers for tertiary students, Mr Mapulane indicated that he has been in contact with the Administrator of NSFAS who indicated that the procurement process is ongoing and therefore the committee has come to a determination to allow the process to be concluded.

There were proposals for a possible oversight inquiry and a forensic investigation into the allegations of maladministration at NFSAS, and of referring the laptop tender matter to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. The committee resolved to look into these matters in the next meeting when it has all the responses from the financial aid scheme.

More From: Parliament of South Africa

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