Picture: Wokandapix/Pixabay

Durban - The Democratic Alliance has slammed the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for failing to account for the R30 billion meant for poor students. 

The DA's Baxolile ‘Bax’ Nodada said they will write to the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, calling for a complete overhaul of NSFAS and its entire management. 

He said Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science & Technology is expected to adopt a draft Budget Review and Recommendation report by all entities in the Ministry including NSFAS despite failing to table its annual report for the 2018/19 financial year.

"NSFAS is one of the entities that has failed to produce audited annual reports to the Auditor-General (A-G) or Parliament by the required legal deadline. This means that, as things stand, the student funding scheme is unable to account for how it utilised the R30 billion it received in the previous financial year due to its failure to submit the financial reports on time," he said. 

Nodada said their letter will look measures to be undertaken moving forward, in light of the lead up to the processing of applications and allocation of 2020 allowances, rigorous checks and balances are followed in the management and disbursement funds by the student funding scheme.

He said NSFAS should be directly accountable to Parliament and the Minister of Higher Education.

"They need to ensure that there is transparency and accountability in the application process, that appropriate and expedient allocation of funds to qualifying students and that there is an improved management in the disbursement of allowance to existing students. For years NSFAS has been riddled with financial difficulties, fraud and corruption due to years of mismanagement of funds by corrupt officials, who awarded dodgy tenders to the defunct VBS Mutual Bank at the expense of student allowances - NSFAS is clearly in a crisis and is consequently unable to fulfill their mandate of providing education opportunities to indigent young people of our society," he said. 

Nodada said the Higher Education and Training report indicated that there are 600 000 qualifying students that did not receive funds from universities, postgraduates and largely TVET college students because of NSFAS’s inability to timeously process payments and approve applications. 

"That is 600 000 young people whose future is held up by gross corruption, excessive wastage, mismanagement of funds and fraud which has diverted funds away from education, leaving these qualifying students without access to education. Some underprivileged students at tertiary institutions are suffering, often go hungry, without study material and are evicted from their accommodations because of NSFAS fails to pay their allowances on time," he said. 

Nodada said it was revolting that those responsible for this crisis are more concerned about staff bonuses rather than ensuring that no qualifying and the academically deserving student is left to starve, sleeping in campus bathrooms or without textbooks to acquire an education that will change the circumstances of their birth.

The Mercury