CAPE TOWN - Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande has indicated that he will receive a forensic investigation report into the finances of the National Skills Fund (NSF) next month.
Speaking during the mini-budget debate, Nzimane said they were steadfast to deal with instances of maladministration and corruption at the NSF.
“I have appointed a forensic company to conduct a full-scale forensic investigation into financial affairs of the NSF after amount of just under R5 billion could not be properly accounted for over two financial years.
“I equally appointed a Ministerial Task Team (MTT) to conduct a strategic review of the NSF, the general operations of the NSF, its efficiency and relevance with regards to the national skills priorities of the country,” he said.
Nzimande said the interventions would ensure that the NSF accounts for the resources allocated to it.
“A final report will be submitted to me by June this year.”
The forensic investigation was at the insistence of the standing committee on public accounts after it received a briefing on the annual performance plan and finances of NSF in May 2021.
The entity had obtained a disclaimer of audit opinion in 2019-20 financial year.
The audit report could not determine whether any adjustment was necessary to the skills development funding expenses stated at R2,5 billion.
It also could not determine whether any adjustment was necessary to the TVET college infrastructure assets, stated at R1 billion and accruals from non-exchange transactions stated at R665,1 million, among other things.
According to Nzimande, the skills levy was expected to increase from R18.9 billion in 2021/22 to R20.6 billion in 2022/23.
“We also have taken a decision to prioritize this sector by re-allocating additional funds from the NSF. We have begun a process of crafting one country one skills plan (Master Skills Plan).”
He said the SETAs would incorporate government priorities, especially on those to address the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
“They will therefore develop their annual performance plans to address skills challenges in various sectors of the economy and country in general.”
Nzimande said the government remained firmly committed to financially support students from poor and working class backgrounds, while also putting a sustainable mechanism in place to support students from the so-called “missing middle” and postgraduate students.
He said the budget of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) was R49 billion with his department contributing R45.9 billion.
“This includes funding reprioritised from the departmental budget to ensure that the full shortfall for the NSFAS is addressed in 2022/23 to support students during the 2022 academic year.
Nzimande also said the NSF would provide budget support for scholarships and bursaries amounting to R866 million.
The amount is made up of R221 million to the National Research Foundation, R527 million to the NSFAS, R80 million to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development and R37.9 million to the DHET Internal Scholarship.
Nzimande said the department was engaging both the public and private sector to come up with a funding model to support students in the “Missing middle” income bracket and post-graduate students who could not secure funding from the National Research Foundation.
“I however must indicate that the MTT is already engaging the Banking Association of South Africa and significant progress is made in this regard. The Ministerial Task Team will be presenting to me its final report by the end of May this year.”