Parliament Inquiry into NSFAS Wrongfully Defunding Over 14,000 Students. The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), responsible for providing financial assistance to over a million students, has come under scrutiny for its recent defunding of students who were allegedly funded based on incorrect information. In this investigation, we delve into the details of the parliamentary committee’s demand for answers regarding the wrongful defunding of more than 14,000 students.
Parliamentary Committee Addresses NSFAS Issues
Earlier this month, NSFAS appeared before the parliamentary committee for Higher Education to discuss several pressing matters. Among the topics of discussion were the disbursement of student allowances, the implementation of a new direct-payment system, and the functioning of its query system. The scheme had faced significant criticism, primarily due to delays in disbursing student allowances, issues with the new NSFAS banking system, and the erroneous defunding of thousands of students.
Committee Expresses Discontent Over Student Funding Errors
During the briefing, members of the parliamentary committee expressed their disappointment and concern regarding the mistake that led to the wrongful defunding of more than 14,000 eligible students. The committee demanded information on the corrective measures being taken by NSFAS to rectify the situation and prevent similar incidents in the future. Chairperson of the committee, Nompendulo Mkhatshwa, stressed her dissatisfaction with NSFAS’s current state, emphasizing that it should be a model entity for the country.
Wrongful Student Defunding Initiatives
Earlier in the year, NSFAS initiated a process of defunding students whom they believed did not meet the eligibility criteria for funding. This decision was prompted by the revelation that NSFAS had disbursed more than R5 billion to students who did not qualify for funding. The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) presented draft findings, indicating that 76 institutions had improperly granted bursaries to approximately 40,044 students between 2018 and 2021.
Policy and Legal Measures to Prevent Recurrence
In response to these findings, NSFAS emphasized its commitment to implementing policy and legal measures to prevent the recurrence of the improper allocation of funds. However, it later became apparent that some students were mistakenly defunded due to errors on NSFAS’s part. NSFAS acting CEO, Masile Ramorwesi, revealed that 45,927 students were disqualified for submitting falsified or fraudulent documents. Common reasons for disqualification included household incomes exceeding R350,000 for first-time students and failure to meet academic progression requirements for returning students.
After a re-evaluation of applications, 14,703 students were reinstated, while 31,224 remained disqualified. Ramorwesi assured that efforts were underway to correct these errors, ensuring that all wrongfully defunded students would regain their funding.
Communication Challenges with NSFAS
Members of Parliament expressed frustration with NSFAS’s communication practices, highlighting the need for more transparent and efficient communication with students and stakeholders. They cited instances where NSFAS responses were perceived as evasive and unprofessional. The committee called for the establishment of a dedicated communications unit within NSFAS to improve its ability to address inquiries and concerns promptly.
Urgent Need for Resolution
Committee members stressed the urgent need for resolution, as these issues were negatively impacting students. They cautioned the NSFAS Board and management about potential consequences if the situation persisted. NSFAS was given a two-week deadline to present a plan detailing how it intends to address the concerns raised by the committee.
The parliamentary committee’s inquiry into NSFAS’s funding discrepancies serves as a call for greater accountability, transparency, and efficiency within the organization, with the ultimate goal of ensuring that deserving students receive the financial support they need for their education.
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