Recently the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) announced that it will launch an investigation that will probe maladministration at the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). The SIU’s main aim is to recover any financial losses suffered by the government and part of the investigation will seek out any fraudulent activities carried out by Nsfas officials.
Earlier this year, Higher Education and Training Minister, Blade Nzimande highlighted that government should not allow Nsfas funding to be abused and referenced the fact that some children of hugely successful government officials were receiving Nsfas funding when they shouldn’t have.
Nzimande’s claim raised many concerns as people were questioning how these children are receiving Nsfas funding when they do not qualify.
In an interview, Nsfas CEO Andile Nongogo explained that In the past, there was no means of verification with third parties when it came to the household income requirements and NSFAS relied on payslips and affidavits instead
This is where the undue funding would come through.
He says that Nsfas has since put mechanisms in place that allows them to verify the information provided by applicants against data from SARS and found around 38 000 Nsfas beneficiaries amounting to R2.4 billion that shouldn’t have been funded.
Nsfas uses SARS as a primary source for all verification, but this does still pose challenges because if parents or guardians neglect to submit their tax returns, Nsfas won’t pick up that the student won’t meet the household income threshold.
Once Nsfas gives SARS the data there is a 72-hour turnaround time for SARS to verify whether applicants are eligible for funding.
Another issue that has raised concerns is that some Nsfas officials have also been accused of defrauding students of their Nsfas allowances and has been picked up mostly amongst TVET college students.
Nongogo says that when Nsfas pays TVET college student allowances, a wallet system is used and for this to be loaded an official has to enter the student’s phone number in order to pay them as this is where irregularities were found.
Some officials were loading their own phone numbers instead of the students.
Officials that were found doing so are undergoing disciplinary processes and some people were dismissed.
Nongogo believes that with the SIU they will be able to tackle many issues and fraudulent activities that Nsfas administration was not at capacity to investigate.