Members of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology have called for the complete overhaul of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). Dr Randall Carolissen, NSFAS Administrator, tabled the entity’s annual performance where he revealed that R7.5 billion in irregular expenditure was realised for the year.

“A lot of things went wrong. We found so many issues that were outstanding and that, at the end of the administrator’s term, necessitated a second term. A lot needs to be done on institutional culture. We have a toxic culture, but work around that issue is being undertaken,” Dr Carolissen said.

Chairperson Mr Philly Mapulane said he was shocked that the audit committee was disbanded. “There is no audit committee, no CEO, no board. All these functions are performed by the administrator. That is wrong. The audit committee performs a crucial function. When you disband it you should get another one,” Mr Mapulane said, stating also that the situation must be corrected. He wanted to know why there had not been an investigation into the R7.6 billion in irregular expenditure.

Committee member Mr Baxolile Nodada proposed a complete overhaul of NSFAS as an entity. “Regardless of whether they appoint a new management, an overhaul is necessary so that we can get an update of what is happening there,” Mr Nodada said. He called on NSFAS to stick to one disbursement model that worked.

Committee Member Mr Siphosethu Ngcobo agreed and said the administrator should support the call for a complete overhaul. “This (NSFAS) has not worked since inception,” he said.

Other members asked about an alleged NSFAS investment in the now defunct VBS bank and Standard Bank. They also wanted to know about transfers to technical and vocational education and training colleges, readiness for the 2020 registration season.

Dr Carolissen said he could not work with the NSFAS audit committee because they have asked for an investigation of a situation that happened under their watch and they hid a cyberspace report from him. In addition, key performance indicators were ill-designed and poorly constructed, but are now being reworked.

“Yes, there is a need for a complete overhaul of NSFAS. A complete re-imagination of NSFAS governance structure and its disbursement model is required. Otherwise in two years’ time there will be another administrator or the place will shut down,” Dr Carolissen said.

He clarified that there was never an investment in VBS or Standard Bank, as both agreements were cancelled; VBS before his time and Standard Bank by himself. “Fraud at NSFAS is a lot better than it was before, but still unacceptable. Every day we discover more fraud and more irregular expenditure,” Dr Carolissen said.

Sibongile Maputi
13 November 2019