Parliamentary Committee Takes NSFAS to Task Over Ongoing Issues and Mismanagement. In a recent parliamentary session, the Portfolio Committee for Higher Education confronted the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) regarding a series of ongoing challenges and problems the organization has been grappling with.
NSFAS Briefs Parliamentary Committee on Key Matters
Early in September, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) provided a comprehensive update to the parliamentary committee. This briefing covered topics such as the disbursement of allowances to students, the implementation of their new direct-payment system, and the functionality of their query system.
Harsh Criticism from Committee Chairperson
Nompendulo Mkhatshwa, Chairperson of the committee from the ANC, began the meeting with a scathing critique of the funding scheme. She stated, “This entity, with the mandate it has, should be the best-run entity in the country… but right now it is not. It’s an embarrassment.”
Amidst Backlash: Issues Plaguing NSFAS
This discussion occurred amidst growing discontent from students and various stakeholders regarding several key issues. These included delays in distributing student allowances, problems with the banking system, and allegations of incorrect defunding of beneficiaries.
Committee Strong Disapproval of NSFAS Systems
The committee expressed strong disapproval of NSFAS’ contact center, portal, and query systems, citing significant inefficiencies. Some committee members even suggested withholding payments to staff responsible for these systems until improvements were made.
Warnings to NSFAS Board and Management
The NSFAS Board and management were cautioned about potential consequences if the situation persisted, underscoring the urgent need for resolution due to its negative impact on students.
Improving Communication at NSFAS
Additionally, there was a call for the bursary scheme to establish a communications unit to enhance its ability to communicate effectively. It was noted that students often felt uninformed, and even the committee’s inquiries went unanswered.
CEO Investigation Raises Concerns
In the previous month, NSFAS announced that its CEO, Andile Nongogo, had taken a “leave of absence” while the board investigated allegations related to his conduct in awarding bids at NSFAS. Nongogo also faced corruption allegations linked to his prior work at Services SETA (SSETA), raising concerns about potential improprieties in bid awards at NSFAS.
Parliament Seeks Transparency on Investigations
Parliament requested transparency regarding the investigations and details on allegations related to the direct payment system, as well as the capacity and appointment of service providers. The NSFAS board disclosed that it had enlisted Werksman Incorporated to investigate these allegations against the CEO and review procurement systems and processes.
Challenges with the New NSFAS Model
The committee also discussed challenges with the new NSFAS student-centered model, particularly concerning centralized services without a physical presence at institutions. The committee emphasized the importance of striking a balance between centralization and decentralization.
Stability and Response from NSFAS
Noting that NSFAS had recently emerged from administration, members of the committee expressed their desire for stability within the organization. They refrained from launching an inquiry into NSFAS to provide the new Board and management an opportunity to address the issues.
NSFAS Acknowledges Challenges
Ernest Khosa, Chairperson of the NSFAS board, acknowledged the challenges NSFAS had been facing and outlined the board’s response. He emphasized that NSFAS had not found the CEO guilty of any wrongdoing.
Committee Sets Deadline for NSFAS
In response to the committee’s concerns, NSFAS was given a two-week deadline to present a plan outlining how it intends to address the issues discussed during the meeting.
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