National News/ 28 August 2022, 08:23am/ Gift Mokoena
Bloemfontein: The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) announced on Friday, that it would probe corruption and maladministration at the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas).
According to Unit spokesperson, Kaizer Kganyago, President Cyril Ramaphosa has authorised it to investigate NSFAS and to recover any financial losses suffered by the state through corruption and negligence.
“The investigation into Nsfas would be twofold. It would look at the management of finances and investigate the allocation of loans, bursaries and other allowances to students by the scheme,” said Kganyago
The investigation comes after the East London Magistrates’ Court, in May, found Sibongile Mani guilty of stealing R818 000 of the R14 million that was accidentally credited to her in 2017 when she was a student at Walter Sisulu University (WSU). The money was from Nsfas funds but was disbursed to students by a service provider, Intellimali, on behalf of WSU.
Mani is currently appealing her five-year jail sentence; she is still out on bail.
It is not the first time Nsfas being investigated, In 2014, Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande announced a forensic investigation into the fraud, corruption, maladministration and collusion in student funding at Nsfas.
This came after allegations of students buying funding from Nsfas and officials who awarded funding to students who did not qualify for the scheme.
Kganyago indicated that SIU would also investigate, any unlawful or improper conduct by employees or officials of the scheme, service providers and their employees or any other person or entity.
In 2019, Parliament’s portfolio committee on higher education heard from Nsfas that 510 cases of alleged fraud, by its employees, had been reported to the commercial crime unit in the Western Cape. The committee was told that employees of the scheme had been defrauding students of their allowances, and at the time, one staff member was arrested for fraud amounting to R30 000.
The employees would change the cellphone number of the students on the Nsfas portal so that when students were paid their allowance through a mobile eWallet or SBux, the money would be redirected to the employees instead of the students.
The SIU investigation will cover allegations of corruption that happened between April 1 2016 to August 26 2022.
Meanwhile the Economic Freedom Fighters Student council (EFFSC), has welcomed investigations into claims of corruption and maladministration at the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
The EFF’s Mpumelelo Xulu says that underprivileged students continue to suffer as a result of NSFAS officials who use state money for their best interest.
He added that they are also puzzled as to why students who are able to pay fees and live above the R350 000 threshold are funded by NSFAS, while poor students don’t get funding.