Minister Nzimande Sets Deadline for NSFAS Action Amid Tender Controversy

Minister Nzimande Sets Deadline for NSFAS Action Amid Tender Controversy

Minister Nzimande Sets Deadline for NSFAS Action Amid Tender Controversy.The South African Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, has set a strict deadline for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) board to outline their strategy for resolving the issues surrounding the direct payment system of allowances to beneficiaries. Minister Nzimande has required that the board provides him with a comprehensive plan by August 30 to rectify the challenges linked to the payment system.

Minister Nzimande Sets Deadline for NSFAS Action Amid Tender Controversy

CEO Leave Amid Allegations

The move comes in the wake of the NSFAS board’s decision to grant a leave of absence to CEO Andile Nongogo. Allegations have been raised against Nongogo in connection to his tenure at the Services Sector Education and Training Authority (Seta). The board revealed that these allegations, which largely stem from his work at another organization, pertain to potential irregularities in the awarding of contracts at NSFAS. Despite the allegations’ origins, the board views them as serious.

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Minister’s Perspective

Ishmael Mnisi, spokesperson for Minister Nzimande, issued a statement indicating that the minister acknowledged the decision to place Nongogo on leave while investigating allegations concerning the appointment of service providers for managing the direct payment solution.

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Minister Nzimande emphasized that the direct payment system is crucial to reduce issues such as unauthorized access to allowances, payment discrepancies, and delayed payments. He asserted that the direct payment system aligns with NSFAS’s student-centered model.

Tender Scrutiny and Student Protests

The Sunday Times recently reported on a controversial contract involving Coinvest Africa and Tshegofatso Ntumba, which garnered attention due to the inflated prices of promotional items supplied in 2018. Nongogo, then CEO of Seta, and Ntumba, as a director of Star Sign and Print, were associated with this deal. Coinvest Africa is among the firms contracted by NSFAS for direct allowance payments to students.

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Students have been vocally critical of this payment system and have engaged in protests, including a recent march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Student demonstrators from Stellenbosch University and the University of the Western Cape (UWC) marched to Cape Town’s parliament demanding the system’s elimination.

Contract Review and Investigation

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) brought attention to the R29 million contract involving Coinvest Africa and Tshegofatso Ntumba. Outa’s investigation revealed the marked price discrepancies for supplied items. The updated report also highlighted concerns regarding the lack of experience as financial service providers for the contracted companies and their fee negotiations with NSFAS.

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NSFAS emphasized its commitment to servicing underprivileged youth and its pivotal role in skills and economic development. The board has initiated an investigation into the allegations with a specific focus on the direct payment project. Meanwhile, the Chief Financial Officer, Masile Ramorwesi, will temporarily assume the CEO role. It is emphasized that the investigation does not imply guilt but aims to establish the veracity of the allegations.

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