Nzimande to meet NSFAS board to discuss state of readiness for 2024

The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande is on Wednesday expected to meet the board of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Some of the items on the agenda include the implementation of the accommodation pilot project and the disbursement of funds to students, which are marred by allegations of corruption.

In 2023, NSFAS announced that it will take over the accreditation of accommodation providers and the direct payment of accommodation providers, a responsibility which was previously given to institutions of higher learning.

Corruption allegations

A report by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) published in December alleges widespread corruption in the appointment of accreditation and accommodation providers.

In some instances, the Outa report alleges that accreditation providers are also doing business with the scheme as accommodation providers.

Some of the accreditation and accommodation providers are alleged to have links with NSFAS bosses.

Following the release of the report, Outa also published a report on the recordings of meetings which it alleges were between NSFAS board chairperson Ernest Khosa and representatives of a service provider linked with the tender to disburse living allowances to NSFAS beneficiaries.

The recordings allege that Khosa received money meant for him, Nzimande, the SACP and other third parties.

Update report to be tabled

During a meeting on Wednesday, Nzimande will among other things receive an update on the progress of the 2024 application process and the implementation of the funding model for the so-called missing middle.

Nzimande and Khosa have denied allegations of wrongdoing.

On Monday, the minister said he is willing to subject himself to any process to clear his name. On Tuesday, the DA laid charges against him for corruption.

NSFAS spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi said the media and the public will be updated on the state of readiness of the higher education sector towards the end of January.

In a statement issued by NSFAS on January 5, Khosa dismissed with contempt the voice recordings that insinuated that he received money.

NSFAS board chairperson Ernest Khosa is alleged to have received kickbacks from service providers, according to a report by Outa./Gallo Images.

“The NSFAS board notes the fightback by some unscrupulous individuals and organisations who are determined to defocus NSFAS from implementing the Werksmans Attorneys report recommendations.

Outa drifting away from impartiality

“It is also interesting to note that the Outa statement coincides with the NSFAS board decision to start with the legal proceedings to terminate the contracts of the direct payment solution service providers,” it said in the statement.

“While NSFAS respects the critical role played by civil society organisations, it is now apparent that Outa is gradually drifting away from its claimed ‘high moral values’, and as an ‘impartial’ organisation by perpetually venturing into politics, informed by the quest to influence the South African political landscape.”

NSFAS supported about 1.1-million students in 2023 with a budget of R47-billion.

More than 70% of all undergraduate students in public universities and over 90% of students in technical and vocational education and training colleges are funded by NSFAS.

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