Scopa chairperson Themba Godi said on Tuesday the auditor-general had raised serious concerns about a lack of internal controls in the NSFAS. Picture: Masi Losi/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - The National Student Financial Aid Scheme is in the firing line of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), with Parliament’s finance watchdog demanding answers on the NSFAS’ funding systems and management.

Scopa chairperson Themba Godi said on Tuesday the auditor-general had raised serious concerns about a lack of internal controls in the NSFAS and other problems. In addition, there were reports that the institution was beset by problems as students faced a backlog of payments.

Godi said Scopa wanted to meet NSFAS officials to determine how the aid scheme was being run.

“Our major problem is the management of NSFAS and the integrity of its data and the amounts they pay to students,” said Godi. “The issue is not that NSFAS does not have money, but it is mismanaged.”

In his audit opinion last year Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu had given the NSFAS a qualified opinion, and raised serious concerns about a lack of internal controls.

Makwetu had also indicated that he could not confirm the value of the loan book of the NSFAS. This despite the government putting it at R10 billion.

Last year, Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor had raised concerns about the backlog in payments to students. Thousands of students had not been paid their funds despite qualifying for funding, and Pandor wanted the NSFAS to take action on this.

A month after raising those concerns Pandor appointed senior Sars official Randall Carolissen as the administrator of the scheme.

Carollisen’s contract runs for a year, and his appointment came after Pandor dissolved the NSFAS board.

Thousands of poor students depend on the scheme to provide financial support for their studies at institutions of higher learning.

Godi said Scopa had not yet chosen a date for the meeting with the NSFAS officials but he hoped it would take place in the next two weeks. He said the NSFAS had an obligation to meet the needs of students and it should be run properly and efficiently.

Political Bureau