Intellimali Apologizes for R14.1m Student Payment Blunder.After a lapse of over six years, independent service provider Intellimali has extended an apology to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for mistakenly crediting R14.1 million to a student’s account.
Intellimali Apologizes for R14.1m Student Payment Blunder
The incident occurred in June 2017 when Intellimali inadvertently granted Walter Sisulu University (WSU) student Sibongile Mani access to the substantial sum, instead of the intended R1,400 food allowance. The company’s CEO, Michael Ansell, expressed regret for the oversight during a recent presentation to NSFAS, initiated by NSFAS CEO Andile Nongogo to address the matter.
R14.1m Error and Subsequent Developments
In a significant error, Intellimali allocated R14.1 million to a WSU student’s account rather than the designated R1,400 food allowance. Sibongile Mani, the recipient of the misallocated funds, later faced legal consequences for her actions, having spent a substantial portion of the money on various personal expenses. Mani’s conviction for theft led to a prison sentence, which she subsequently appealed.
Presentation and Apology to NSFAS
Intellimali participated in a presentation to NSFAS alongside a FirstRand delegation in response to a bid for a multimillion-rand student allowance payment contract. During this presentation, Nongogo inquired about the steps taken to address the weaknesses that resulted in the erroneous R14.1 million payment.
He also questioned why Intellimali had not previously cleared NSFAS’s name in relation to the error. Ansell, responding on behalf of Intellimali, expressed an apology if such action was warranted, stating that he was previously unaware of this aspect. He acknowledged the significant impact such an incident had on the company and explained the measures taken to enhance their internal checks and security systems.
Forensic Investigations and Outcomes
In the wake of the error, Intellimali underwent two external forensic audits to assess the situation and determine the level of accountability. Both audits, conducted by Ernst & Young and the Department of Higher Education’s own forensic department, concluded that there was no wrongdoing on Intellimali’s part. These investigations aimed to clear the company’s name and restore its reputation, as well as to establish accountability for the erroneous payment.
NSFAS’s Perspective and Media Engagement
Nongogo highlighted that media reports often implicated NSFAS as the entity responsible for the student’s overpayment. He questioned why Intellimali had not taken a more proactive approach to publicly address the issue and clarify the situation. Ansell explained that their public relations advice suggested minimal engagement with the media, leading to a lack of direct response. He mentioned the financial cost incurred to rectify the situation and conduct audits.
Efforts to Repair the Relationship with NSFAS
Ansell clarified that the recent apology was an attempt to mend the strained relationship between Intellimali and NSFAS, a relationship that had been adversely affected since the incident in 2017. He emphasized the absence of operational errors or staff misconduct based on the outcomes of the forensic investigations. Ansell reassured that Intellimali’s systems had been fortified, resulting in a secure operational environment.
Controversy Surrounding Nongogo and Governance
Recent controversies have arisen around Nongogo’s presence during bid presentations and his professional conduct. Nongogo faced allegations concerning his role at the Services Sector Education and Training Authority (Sseta), during which time a company connected to Tshegofatso Ntumba, director of Coinvest Africa, secured a contract worth R29 million. Governance experts criticized Nongogo’s involvement in such matters.
Intellimali’s recent apology to NSFAS reflects its efforts to address and rectify the R14.1 million student payment error that occurred more than six years ago. The company’s subsequent forensic investigations confirmed no wrongdoing, while internal systems and checks were bolstered to prevent such incidents in the future.
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