Cape Town - Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has again asked Parliament to grant extension to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) after it failed to submit its annual report for 2021-22 by the September 30 deadline.
This after the Auditor General South Africa (AGSA) gave an opportunity to NSFAS to submit updated financial statements within two months' time.
In letters to the presiding officers, Nzimande explained the reasons for the further delay in the submission of the NSFAS’ annual report within the legislated deadline.
He told National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and National Council of Provinces chairperson Amos Masondo that he was unable to submit and table the annual report and audited financial statements before Parliament as per the prescripts of the Public Finance Management Act.
The minister said the NSFAS board had in July 2022 requested him to note that the state-owned bursary fund would not be submitting the financial statements and annual report within the statutory timelines.
Nzimande previously told the presiding officers that there were some issues that required further engagement with the AGSA to properly and appropriately account for these matters in the financial statements.
“NSFAS is still engaging with AGSA to agree on the extension period, and we will advise Parliament once this is concluded,” he said late last year.
In his latest letter, Nzimande said due to the nature and complexity of the audit on the close-out project, further delays were experienced during the audit.
“The AGSA raised some findings relating to the close-out project.
“NSFAS did not agree with the findings and has subsequently engaged the AGSA on disagreements which centre on mis-statements that are adjustable and matters of interpretation,” he said.
Nzimande said both AGSA and NSFAS have since decided that the entity may submit updated financial statements by March 31, 2023.
“Due to the extent of the audit work, I anticipate the sign-off date of the auditor’s report to be 30 June 2023.”
He also said since the audit was under review, he was requesting Parliament to note that NSFAS was still not in a position to submit the 2021-22 audit report, audited annual financial statements and the annual report.
“NSFAS will be in the position to submit the annual financial statements and an annual report once the audit opinion is obtained.”
“It is expected that the submission will be ready for tabling on June 30, 2023,” Nzimande wrote in his letter dated December 15.
The NSFAS is no stranger to controversies over its finances.
Last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised a proclamation authorising the Special Investigating Unit to investigate a host of irregular expenditure, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, among other things.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana has asked for an extension after failing to submit the consolidated financial statements, including the revenue fund within the extended deadline of January 18.
Godongwana wrote to the presiding officers on January 9 explaining the reasons for the delay in the submission of the statements for 2021-22.
Godongwana blamed the delay partly on dispute between the National Treasury and the AGSA, saying they further delayed finalisation of the National Treasury audit.
“The consolidated financial statements (CFS), including the National Revenue Fund (NRF), were due for tabling by 31 October 2022, but the deadline could not be met because of the delayed submission of audited financial statements of initially two national departments and a substantial number of public entities and now recently by National Treasury,” Godongwana said.
“I therefore request a further delay in the tabling of these documents and estimate that I will be able to table the above-mentioned financial statements and the audit reports thereon by 31 January 31, 2023,” Godongwana wrote.