The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has denied paying R1 650 monthly allowances to 157 980 “ghost students” through the state-funded programme.
At the weekend, News24 reported that the embattled student government funding body had been paying ghost learners millions in funding, money which should have been reserved for deserving students.
According to the publication, the NSFAS had revealed on October 18 that a forensic probe had found that fired NSFAS CEO Andile Nongogo hand-picked four firms to pay around 1.1 million students their R1 650 monthly allowances directly and not through tertiary institutions, which had been the previous payment method.
It was alleged that the four fintech companies appointed to disburse the allowances had paid only 390 000 students since the contract started in July, leaving 157 980 beneficiaries unaccounted for and nearly R260.7 million going to unknown people.
On Tuesday, the NSFAS said there was no truth in the allegations.
“The NSFAS categorically denies the recent claims of late payments of allowances to students. NSFAS confirms that payment of allowances have been processed on time to all NSFAS beneficiaries.”
It said it had successfully distributed R681 million in allowances to more than 143 000 beneficiaries at TVET colleges in October.
“Owing to phishing threats, NSFAS had to put in place additional security measures to protect the system from potential fraudsters. As a result, the system upgrade caused delays in disbursing funds to universities. However, NSFAS, is still on track to disburse allowances to students on the 1st of November 2023,” the NSFAS said.
During a standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) meeting on Tuesday, the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) said its findings into the government financial scheme had picked up payments to non-existent students.
SIU chief national investigator Leonard Lekgetho told Scopa that at 15 higher education institutions in Gauteng, R1.9 billion (R1 992 784 618) was paid to students who did not qualify.
The scheme’s board chairperson, Ernest Khosa, said it has taken numerous steps to streamline its processes to minimise delays and fraudulent activities.
“We understand the critical importance of these funds to our students, and we are continuously working to make the payment process as efficient as possible. Our commitment is to the higher education community remains steadfast.
“The News24 article which claimed that NSFAS paid monthly allowances to 157 980 ghost students is factually incorrect and improbable. NSFAS takes measures to ensure the accuracy and authenticity of student information through The Know Your Customer (KYC) validation process,“ said Khosa.