Home South African NSFAS aware of ‘alleged corruption and bribery’ in accommodation pilot project

NSFAS aware of ‘alleged corruption and bribery’ in accommodation pilot project

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The National Student Financial Aid Scheme acting board chairperson said they were aware of alleged corruption and bribery between accrediting agents and landlords in the scheme’s accommodation pilot project.

NSFAS board acting chairperson, Professor Lourens van Staden. Picture: Supplied

THE NATIONAL Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) acting board chairperson, Professor Lourens van Staden, said they were aware of alleged corruption and bribery between accrediting agents and landlords in the scheme’s accommodation pilot project.

The NSFAS board and executive management held a media briefing on the registration process, payment of allowances and student accommodation pilot project.

“If this is indeed true, we wish to reiterate that this will not be tolerated by the scheme and that should anyone be found in the wrong, NSFAS will report these to law enforcement agencies,” Van Staden said.

On January 15, Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande announced Van Staden’s appointment with immediate effect, following Ernest Khosa’s voluntary 30-days leave of absence.

Khosa’s absence emanated from a scathing report by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), implicating him and Nzimande in alleged tender corruption and financial mismanagement.

It came to light on Monday that NSFAS received 1,936, 330 applications as of February 16, with the scheme processing 23,000 applications a day.

To date, NSFAS has rejected 243,113 applications and 15,174 appeals have been lodged.

It was also revealed that allowances for the 2024 academic year would be dispersed using the direct payment method with the payment partners assigned to institutions last year.

“NSFAS requested institutions to pay allowances for both February and March due to challenges experienced at the beginning of the 2024 academic year,” Van Staden said.

“Institutions were also requested to allow direct payment service providers to conduct the process of onboarding students while they continue with payments.”

The direct payments would start next month and institutions would administer the payment of allowances for February and March only.

A Werksmans Attorneys investigation report released in October found that the appointment of the four service providers in charge of disbursing student allowances was irregular and recommended the contracts should be terminated.

On the report recommendations, Van Staden said that “significant steps” had been taken in implementing the recommendations.

“The NSFAS board remains committed to holding accountable those who have engaged in wrongdoing as contained in the Werksmans Attorneys report.”

NSFAS acting chief financial officer Ché Muller said there were various verification processes in place to avoid the payment of “ghost students”.

When probed, he did not confirm reports that NSFAS was paying ghost students, and said: “In fact we are not able to pay ghost students especially when it comes to the direct payment of allowances as those students actually physically have to verify themselves and the institution has to provide us with records.”

In October last year, the scheme denied it had paid 157,980 ghost students’ monthly allowances, as per media reports, calling this “factually incorrect and improbable”.

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