“We, yet again as a country, find ourselves in panic mode due to the government's obsession with outsourcing essential services in this country. It was the case with the Sassa-Cash Paymaster Services debacle and now this,” Sabelo Sigudu, NFP spokesperson, said in a statement on Thursday.
“What is of concern is the government remaining mum over the matter instead of taking responsibility for their role in this crisis. The government, through NSFAS, distances itself and places the blame entirely on the university.”
The NFP said it strongly believed the government's failure to ensure that all universities in the country paid National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) beneficiaries through its own paymaster system was what had led to this crisis.
“Had the Department of Higher Education and Training ensured that NSFAS is responsible for administration of payment of all loans to students, instead of outsourcing this service, this could have been avoided,” Sigudu said.
“Ms Sibongile Mani is now labelled in some quarters of society as a thief and fraudster who stole R818 000 from NFSAS and she will have to repay that amount with interest once she starts her career.
“We are opposed to her having to pay back a cent of the money as it was not of her own making that the money landed in her account in the first place. Those responsible for the error - government and its incompetent outsourcing partner appointed through the university under the minister's watch - should pay the amount, not her,” said Sigudu.
Blade Nzimande, the Minister of Higher Education and Training, on Thursday condemned the incorrect payment. “This debacle is wholly unacceptable. Serious action should be taken against all those responsible as soon as all the facts are established. I have instructed NSFAS, supported by officials from the department, to urgently get to the bottom of the matter, with a view to ensuring that wherever the problems lie, this will never be repeated,” the minister said.
The payment was allegedly made in June into the student's account by the NSFAS.
The student alleges she had reported the transaction but was not assisted. It was reported that she then used around R800 000 of the funds before it was noticed, earlier this month.
The Department of Higher Education and Training said the error, allegedly by a service provider at the university, occurred during a payment run to 3 500 students at the institution supported by the NSFAS.