Cape Town - The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) says it acknowledges and welcomes the SUl report presented in the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) sitting held on Tuesday.
The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has reported that approximately R5bn in NSFAS funds were wrongfully awarded to 40 000 students who did not qualify for the funding, and the probe has stretched to 76 institutions across the country.
These students did not provide their parents' details during the application process, which led to an improper means test being conducted.
This follows after the head of the SIU, advocate Andy Mothibi told Scopa that they would leave no stone unturned in the investigations.
In a statement, NSFAS spokesperson, Kagisho Mamabolo said that this is information that NSFAS shared with the SIU and covers earlier academic years up to 2019.
“This is based on cases where applicants falsified their application information to unduly benefit from the scheme.
“It was prevalent at the time when the scheme could not verify the information through third party source data, such as the Department of Home Affairs and the South African Revenue Services.
“These verifications have now been embedded in the NSFAS verification process since 2020,” Mamabolo said.
Mamabolo continued that this issue has been highlighted by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande in various press briefings, where the minister reaffirmed his support of NSFAS efforts to hold those who defraud the scheme accountable.
“In his address to officially open the 2023 application cycle, the minister welcomed the proclamation and sent a stern warning for those who continue to defraud NSFAS and to indicate that together with the law enforcement agencies, we are following all the cases where there are suspected instances of fraud and corruption,” he said.
Mamabolo further added that NSFAS welcomed the SIU's focus on cracking down on those who want to unduly benefit from the scheme.
“NSFAS is of the view that this will serve as a lesson and deterrent to those who want to unlawfully benefit to the detriment of poor and deserving students.
“When the SIU commenced its work, NSFAS had already initiated a process to de-fund these students and pursue recovery.
“Furthermore, NSFAS continues to improve controls to limit instances of those who benefit undeservedly,” Mamabolo added.
He also alluded that NSFAS continues to fully cooperate with the SIU investigating team, as well as provide all the information and support that will ensure the exercise is fruitful.