Khosa wants Outa probed for ‘destabilising’ higher education

Former board chairperson of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) Ernest Khosa, who resigned amid accusations that he had solicited bribes from service providers, wants his accusers, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), to be investigated “for destabilising the higher education sector”.

Khosa and Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Dr Blade Nzimande have been cleared by an independent investigation into allegations made by Outa that they accepted bribes from service providers.

The report, prepared by advocate William Mokhare SC, who was briefed by TGR Attorneys, also found no proof to support Outa’s claims that Khosa was influenced to use law firm Werksmans in order to sway the outcome of an investigation.

Khosa, who is also the board chair of the Civil Aviation Authority of South Africa, resigned from NSFAS in April following a month-long leave of absence to allow the student funding scheme to finalise its investigation into the allegations.

Outa published a report in early January based on two recordings between Khosa, Thula Ntumba and Joshua Maluleke whom it said had links with Coinvest, which is one of the four direct payment providers which the Werksmans investigation found were appointed irregularly and recommended their contracts be terminated.

“[Outa investigations manager Rudie] Heyneke also conceded that his report was based solely on him listening to the audio recordings of the meetings and drawing inferences from the conversations between Khosa, Ntumba and Maluleke.

“He also admitted he did not interview anybody to corroborate his conclusions.”

According to Mokhare, there is no proof that Khosa received any bribe either for himself or on behalf of Nzimande.

“So, on available facts, and on Ntumba and Maluleke’s own version, the story of the bribe is simply fictitious and ridiculous, and Outa ought not to have lend credence to it,” wrote Mokhare.

In addition, Mokhare reports that there is also no proof but an inference by Outa that Khosa, who was tasked with finding a respected law firm to investigate the awarding of the direct payment contracts, chose Werksmans on the advice of Ntumba.

Mokhare’s report also found that Ntumba, who is married to Tshegofatso Ntumba, one of the directors of Coinvest, was not representing Coinvest in any capacity and Maluleke had no association with any of the direct payment providers.

“With regard to the allegation that Khosa was paid R1.5-million, he [Heyneke] actually conceded that Ntumba and Maluleke never said that Khosa received R1.5 million.”

The report found no proof that Khosa and Nzimande received any bribes.

Khosa told Sunday World on Friday he was relieved the independent investigation dismissed Outa’s findings. “It raises the question why Outa would publish a report without verifying the information. It is my conclusion that Outa was hoping the report would destabilise the higher education sector,” Khosa said.

“I therefore see the report as a political smash and grab tactic by Outa who hoped they will influence changes in the sector before their facts were verified.”

Khosa said Outa should be investigated for its part in destabilising the higher education sector in this country. “They want to be seen to be fighting corruption. They manufacture corruption where they find none to create a perception to their sponsors that they are fighting corruption,” he said.

“How else do you justify their allegations that the Werksmans report was a plot to hide the truth? How can such respected legal minds as Sandile July and advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi be party to such a plot?

But Outa’s CEO Wayne Duvenage said the organisation stands by its report. “The Mokhare report does not exonerate Khosa. It is not an admission that we have been wrong in our report. The report says the recordings are authentic,” he said.

“The question is, why Khosa was meeting with people who had links with a service provider? If he has nothing to hide then why did he resign?”

Duvenage said Mokhare’s report was a red herring.

On why he resigned, Khosa said he had planned to leave NSFAS by January and had communicated this to some of his colleagues on the board.

“The Outa report disrupted my plans as I had to wait for the completion of the report. When the report took long to be published, I resigned in the last week of March, long before the dissolution of the board,” he said.

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