Parliament, Friday, 12 April 2024 -The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education notes the Minister of Higher Education’s intervention to dissolve the current National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) board and the plan to place the scheme under administration.

The committee Chairperson, Ms Nompendulo Mkhatshwa, said: “We welcome the intervention by the Minister to dissolve the current NSFAS accounting authority and the plan to place the scheme under administration, while [noting that] dissolving the Board is not ideal for the governance stability we wish to see in the sector. It is however the only option the Minister has, given the perpetual challenges the scheme is experiencing. Under this Board, NSFAS has been unable to effectively and efficiently discharge its mandate of disbursing funds to students and has also failed to timeously table in Parliament annual reports for two financial years, 2021/22 and 2022/23, respectively. Furthermore, the information technology systems-related inadequacies have not been addressed, causing delays in the disbursements of funds to universities and allowances to students.”

The Chairperson also noted that the committee is gravely concerned about the instability at some of the universities and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges due to unpaid allowances, challenges with the accommodation pilot project, outstanding payments from the previous academic year, allowances disappearing from students accounts a few hours after payments and delays in the processing of appeals.

In addition, student protests at the affected institutions have disrupted the academic programmes and this will affect students’ performance. The committee has engaged with NSFAS several times on the same issues, however, there seems to be no ending to the challenges, the Chairperson said.

In addition, the committee is seriously concerned that this is not the first time that NSFAS has been placed under administration. Previously, NSFAS was under administration from August 2018 to December 2020. The question, the Chairperson said, is whether changes to boards is an effective method of addressing the challenges at NSFAS or whether there is a need to investigate the current NSFAS workforce and the institutional culture. If there is no change in NSFAS’s institutional culture, there will still be regression after the administration period has ended.

The committee has noted that employees who have failed to do their jobs have not faced consequences for this failure. The Auditor-General has also raised concerns regarding NSFAS’s over-reliance on consultants, which indicates that the workforce is not skilled enough to perform the work or there are serious capacity challenges within the organisation.

The committee calls on the Minister to consider conducting a skills audit of the workforce and that performance management be implemented without fear or favour. The committee also notes that Mr Khosa, the Board Chairperson, has resigned and calls on the Minister to ensure that all investigations into allegations of corruption currently underway should continue. In addition, those implicated in alleged corruption must be investigated even when they are no longer employed by NSFAS.

Although Parliament has risen, the committee has applied to have an urgent meeting with NSFAS on Tuesday, 16 April 2024 to address the current challenges facing students and institutions of higher learning, including other matters relating to the new accommodation pilot project and progress in the implementation of the Werkmans Investigative Report recommendations.


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