NSFAS denies it's writing off R1.96bn historical debt
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NSFAS administrator Randall Carolissen said the R1.96bn referred to was part of the R7.5bn irregular expenditure. He said the historic debt fund was not fully used because “not all the identified students applied for the debt relief for various reasons, including that some had found alternative means to pay their debts”.
This comes after, DA spokesperson on higher education, science and technology, Belinda Bozzoli, said the historic debt was revealed in a response by Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande to a DA parliamentary question.
Bozzoli said she wanted clarity on two things - “what criteria have been used to write off the debt and who pays for the costs associated with the written off debt”.
“As far as the criteria are concerned, if the process of clearing historic debt is based solely on non-payment by past beneficiaries, it is an indictment on NSFAS, for not collecting monies owed to it and those individual beneficiaries for failing to pay back,” Bozzoli said.
She said if the process was based on previous beneficiaries not being able to pay due to unemployment, “it’s an indictment on the government, who have overseen the growth and consolidation of an unprecedented and horrifying unemployment crisis in our country”.
Bozzoli claimed that NSFAS had never been “any good” at recovering monies owed to it, and that had led to a grave injustice.
“Individuals who obtained a good job after their graduation have been let off the hook, robbing current and future students of an opportunity to access higher education.”
Carolissen said both parliamentary committees had been briefed during the period of the Covid-19 lockdown about the context and quantum of the irregular expenditure reported on by NSFAS in its 2018/19 annual report.
He said before the 2017/18 financial year, NSFAS disclosed cumulative irregular expenditure of R303.5m.
“This has significantly increased in the 2018/19 financial year to a cumulative figure of R7.5bn as at March 31, 2019 including prior year amounts restated after quantification exercises were reperformed,” said Carolissen.
He said the previous board had approved the use of some of the unused historic debt funds to settle the shortfall of registered qualifying and unfunded students in the 2016 and 2017. He said the irregularity was that this was done without approval from National Treasury.@SISONKE_MD