Sibongile Mani

Cape Town - How R14 million was loaded onto the meal card of Walter Sisulu University (WSU) student Sibongile Mani remains a mystery, with the university, financial aid and the vendor responsible for making the payment refusing to accept responsibility.

On Wednesday, Parliament’s higher education portfolio committee was briefed by WSU, payment company Intellimali and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Mani sparked a storm after it was discovered she had blown more than R800 000 of the R14m erroneously loaded onto her card instead of the monthly R1 400 allowance in June.

Intellimali has since instituted a forensic investigation and lodged a criminal case with the SAPS.

It has repaid WSU the money spent by Mani.

Briefing the committee, WSU vice-chancellor Rob Midgley described the overpayment as “extraordinary” and said it had caused enormous reputational damage.

“This has been a massive wake-up call to everyone. The institution has seriously suffered as a result.”

He said WSU was in support of any process to investigate the matter.

“We are not suspecting rogue behaviour from our staff members,” Midgley added.

He said a spreadsheet of amounts due to students had been sent to Intellimali.

Midgley maintained it was accurate, with the names of more than 14 000 students, including Mani’s.

“We have no reason to doubt the integrity of our system,” he said.

The error was picked up by the university’s system of reconciliation of the distribution of student funds on its campuses.

“There was a delay in reconciliation; we were handing over from campus to institutional-based systems when we picked up the discrepancy.”

NSFAS also distanced itself from the error. Intellimali chief executive Michael Ansell said the spreadsheet file was processed correctly and no error report was registered after the money was uploaded. 

“There was no oversight, no error or negligence,” he said.

He added that the system feedback had confirmed Mani had received her R1 400 monthly allowance, but told how she had checked her balance several times before her spending spree. 

“We have all records on her spending until we deactivated the card.”

Political Bureau