Members of Parliament (MPs) expressed their horror about alleged mismanagement at the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
In a marathon meeting of close to eight-and-a half-hours on Friday, NSFAS employees briefed the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology.
This follows a meeting on 9 October, where allegations were first levelled against NSFAS administrator Randall Carolissen by trade union Nehawu. Nehawu has since withdrawn from the process, after engaging with Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Blade Nzimande and NSFAS.
Many of the allegations centre on people appointed to NSFAS who have some form of relationship with Carolissen, without due processes being followed.
The employees said they were unilaterally moved to other positions or had duties taken away from them, and were subjected to spurious disciplinary proceedings.
At least 10 people known to Carolissen were appointed to senior positions, allegedly without proper recruitment processes being followed.
Carolissen admitted to knowing some of them, and said he received CVs which he forwarded to the human resources department, but he was not involved in any appointment processes, unless it was someone reporting directly to him.
He said the allegations were clearly intended to “bring the administration into disrepute”.
One of the employees, who testified before the committee under oath, Kagisho Mamabolo, said: “We are not employees who are angry. We are not upset. We want the entity to move forward.”
Committee chairperson Philly Mapulane said the testimony painted a “horrible picture” of NSFAS.
“It’s a terrible, terrible picture I’m listening [sic] to here,” he reiterated. “It’s very depressing, actually.”
DA MP Baxolile Nodada said it was “extremely appalling”, and the allegations of irregular appointments were very serious.
“History remembers the brave,” ANC MP Jane Mananiso said to the employees.
She said she is very concerned that Carolissen, by his own admission, sent CVs to human resources, and all the people whose CVs he sent, were appointed.
IFP MP Siphosethu Ngcobo said it is clear why Nehawu didn’t attend.
He said:I wish they were brave enough to stand with their members.
ANC MP Tebogo Letsie was also disappointed by Nehawu’s withdrawal.
“It looks like the department is failing to do oversight,” he said. “It shouldn’t even be in the Portfolio Committee. You [the department] should have dealt with it.”
FF Plus MP Wynand Boshoff said what he heard was like a Western movie with two narratives – in one, the little town is overrun with crooks until the new sheriff comes to town, in the other everything was fine in the town, until the sheriff came. He said he will decide which narrative is correct upon further investigation.
The committee will call some of Carolissen’s acquaintances who were appointed to testify before it at a future meeting. It will also take a close look at NSFAS’s procurement processes.
The committee will eventually table a report to the National Assembly, which will be binding if adopted.
In July, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa lodged a complaint relating to allegations of nepotism, racism, and maladministration with the Public Protector.
In August 2018, then-minister of Higher Education Naledi Pandor placed it under administration, with Carolissen as administrator. His term, which has been extended, expires at the end of the year.