Cape Town – The new National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) board has committed to building confidence in the public entity and “getting it back on track” following poor annual audit outcomes.
NSFAS board chairperson Ernest Khosa said they were deeply concerned about the performance of the entity, high regular expenditure and high irregularities.
According to the findings, the entity had incurred R5 billion in irregular expenditure for the 2019/2020 period, while the 2018/2019 figure stands at R3.2bn. Khosa said the board has started work to track, monitor and implement turnaround strategies.
“We will work closely with the Department of Higher Education on issues of policies and general issues affecting the sector. We can get NSFAS on track if we collaborate together.
“In the few weeks we have taken office, we have established additional board committees to provide strategic direction and oversight on HR, ethics, and operations which is the core business of NSFAS.
“We are also attending to short-term temporary assistance to address issues raised by the auditor-general and in the medium term capacity and review the organisation structure,” he said.
According to Khosa, management has developed a smart audit plan which will be monitored by auditor risk management and the board.
“We are placing mechanisms in place to monitor performance. Operational plans are being developed by management and internal audits to review quarterly performance reports to ensure more accuracy and completeness,” he said.
Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande said the department would go through the auditor-general’s report.
“This is so that we identify all the issues that have been raised with the view to do everything that the department and NSFAS need to do going forward.
“Not to defend NSFAS but some of the findings against have got less to do with NSFAS itself but lack of co-operation by tertiary institutions. When data is needed it is not provided timeously to NSFAS which is required to make decisions.”
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union’s general secretary Zola Saphetha called for individuals who participated in irregular expenditure to face punitive measures.
“The newly appointed board has a mammoth task of ensuring that the institution turns the corner and they must focus on practising good governance and implementing accountability measures,” Saphetha said.
“We will engage the Minister of Finance to avail more funds for NSFAS so that more students can be funded to further their studies.
“Should this fail, we will not hesitate to mobilise our allies to march to the Treasury to demand more funding for students.”