PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa has been told to consider a commission of inquiry into allegations of gross maladministration and corruption against the entities that fall under the Department of Higher Education.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) said there was too much smoke in Minister Blade Nzimande’s kitchen. The organisation said issues should not be ignored.
When reached, Nzimande’s spokesperson, Veli Mbele said: “The Minister has already and extensively dealt with this matter as early as through the previous press briefing.
“There is a criminal complaint in place and it is inappropriate and downright mischievous for the media to usurp the role and powers of law enforcement.
“Whoever has something to say about this matter should channel their information or enquiries with law enforcement and cease and desist from interfering with an ongoing investigation.
“The Minister’s rights remain fully reserved against the sponsors and accomplices to what is clearly a concerted campaign to manufacture controversy and falsehoods in a quest to sell news and damage the good name of the Minister.”
Asked for a comment, Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Vincent Magwenya did not respond.
Earlier this year the organisation called Nzimande and National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) board chairperson Ernest Khoza to resign over voice recordings of two meetings between Khoza and a representative of a service provider, which revealed how service providers allegedly paid millions of rand in kickbacks to Nzimande and Khosa, as well as at least R1 million to the SACP.
This, according to Outa, was done in return for tenders and protection for service providers.
The recording and Outa’s accompanying report were the latest bombshells exposing corruption and mismanagement at NSFAS.
NSFAS admitted in January that at least 20 000 students countrywide were still waiting for 2023 allowances to be paid.
The students payment system all but collapsed after four new service providers were awarded the tender for facilitating direct payments to students in July 2023.
Outa also published several more reports detailing mismanagement of funds meant for students while exposing the role of NSFAS chief executive Andile Nongogo, tracing his nefarious activities back to his tenure as chief executive at the Service Seta (Sseta).
The organisation also uncovered how R37m was allegedly wasted due to highly overinflated prices, a questionable tender award process and a total disregard for the Public Finance Management Act.
The invoices were allegedly signed off by Nongogo, who was Sseta chief executive at the time.
According to Outa, some of the inflated prices in one specific tender included a branded T-shirt at R4 600, R44 000 for a branded umbrella, R980 for a coaster and R668 200 to print 100 copies of the Sseta Annual Performance Plan.
The tender, worth R40m, was awarded to Five Stars Communication and Projects for the development and production of Sseta’s branding and marketing materials.
Outa recently called on businesses that sit on the boards of different Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas) to investigate irregularities in these organisations and hold officials who were implicated accountable.
This followed a complaint by the Graduate Institute of Financial Sciences that 700 of its students who completed their courses have not been officially certified by the Insurance Seta (Inseta).
The institution alleged that Inseta knew ghost learners who had reportedly been awarded fake certificates.
Outa’s chief executive, Wayne Duvenage, said this organisation had been receiving additional information that corroborated and confirmed matters that painted a picture of a significant volume of nefarious activities and agendas within various Setas.
“This is very disturbing for Outa, which is engaging with various stakeholders, including authorities at Inseta, before it compiles a report on its findings at Inseta, with others to potentially unfold.
“One thing we can say is that it is high time the business sector starts to question the return that we are getting from the Skills Development Levies (SDLs) being paid to the government,” Duvenage said.
Duvenage further said that he believed the original intent and delivery of SDLs were not being delivered to the fullest and honest capacity.
“Judging by the number of issues being raised with us, along with the fallout unfolding and negative impact on the student lives, we believe it may be prudent for the president to consider a commission of inquiry into the many allegations of gross maladministration and corruption within all departments that fall under the Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation.
“There is too much smoke in Blade Nzimande’s kitchen, to ignore the issues that are coming to the fore. This is a department that is supposed to be taking care of the skills, training and development of the poorest sector of society, and yet we find many people being negatively impacted by the Setas and NSFAS,” Duvenage said.