‘Ghost students’ haunt NSFAS

Picture by NSFAS/Twitter

The department is engaging with Treasury about the matter.

Corrupt syndicates are still haunting the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), its administrator, Dr Randall Carolissen, told Parliament on Tuesday, with one of their scams being collecting money to pay “ghost students”.

Addressing the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology on the adjusted budget, Carolissen said they have uncovered various syndicates at the NSFAS.

He added he had discussed it extensively with Higher Education and Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande, and they have also been in contact with law enforcement agencies to ask them to expedite investigations.

“We’re also working closely with the Commercial Crime Unit”.

Carolissen said they had some “bad publicity” recently, but have not heard back from the Public Protector yet, adding he would not go into the matter, apart from describing it as “slanderous” and “absolute rubbish” to divert attention away from disciplinary action.

He was apparently referring to a complaint relating to allegations of nepotism, racism and maladministration which UDM leader Bantu Holomisa lodged with the Public Protector earlier this month.

City Press reported Holomisa’s complaint contained serious allegations made by concerned workers against Carolissen as well as a general collapse of corporate governance at the NSFAS.

In August 2018, then-minister of higher education Naledi Pandor placed it under administration, with Carolissen as administrator. His term comes to an end next month.

Consequences

The committee also heard the NSFAS received a letter from Treasury earlier this month with an “onerous condition that NSFAS cannot comply with” as it would have “disastrous consequences”.

The “onerous condition” is that R2.5 billion of the student grant fund is suspended and earmarked for the procurement of student devices.

“The full original student grant funds are required for the normal 2020 academic year disbursements,” read the NSFAS presentation to the committee.

It recommended student devices be funded by R2.1 billion of recovered funds for university students, and R1.5 billion of accumulated TVET funds for TVET students.

The department is engaging with Treasury about the matter.

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