The EFF accuses the Department of Higher Education and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) of not being ready for the 2024 student intake.
The NSFAS board and Blade Nzimande, the Minister of Higher Education, Science, and Innovation, met with a delegation from the EFF headed by Floyd Shivambu, the party’s deputy president, to discuss issues pertaining to the department’s readiness to receive students.
Nzimande had been putting in a lot of effort to make sure that transitions went smoothly and had promised to pay at least R42-million upfront.
The minister announced that the NSFAS received 1 545 822 applications for the 2024 academic year. However, the EFF claimed that the department and NSFAS are not ready for the student intake.
The issue of the ability to pay out student allowances and the ongoing impasse that had resulted from the irregular appointment of four service providers for direct payments, according to Werkmans Attorneys’ forensic report, were of particular concern, according to Sinawo Thambo, the EFF spokesperson.
Cancel the contracts
The four service providers — eZaga Holdings, Noracco Corporation, Tenet Technology, and Coinvest — should be cancelled, according to the party, since their appointments were purportedly made irregularly.
Thambo confirmed that NSFAS has hired a law firm to help implement the recommendations suggested by the Werkmans Attorneys’ forensic report.
With this being in the limelight, no solid plan has been put forth on how NSFAS funds would be disbursed in the 2024 academic year.
According to the minister, the NSFAS is not required to follow the report’s recommendations and must go to court to terminate the contracts of the erroneously appointed service providers.
Said Thambo: “This essentially means that the four service providers still have their contracts in place despite the unfavourable findings against them that NSFAS has adopted.”
“Until a logical and legally sound direct payment system is established, Minister Blade Nzimande and the acting chairperson of the NSFAS board, Lourens van Staden, made references [during the meeting] to the possibility of assigning higher education institutions the task of disbursing student allowances.”
Concerns about corruption
He said this was rejected as it raised corruption concerns, claiming this would be an opportunity for the ruling party to use the money for political gains.
He also stated that the institutions do not have the audit capacity and financial administration to handle and disburse large sums of money.
One of the concerns, according to Thambo, is student accommodation for first-year students. He said the details would be revealed in a comprehensive report.