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Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology has welcomed the arrest of the three National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) employees on allegations of fraud.

NSFAS confirmed the arrest of three employees in Wynberg, Cape Town, for allegedly diverting student allowances to their personal accounts.

In a statement written on behalf of NSFAS executive administrator Dr Randall Carolissen, NSFAS said: “The employees were all arrested on allegations of fraud relating to diverting student allowances to their personal accounts. NSFAS is working with the authorities, who are investigating the matter.”

Carolissen said since August 2018, NSFAS instituted a number of forensic investigations on the general disbursement of student funds, student allowance, leakage of sensitive and confidential information, and human resources-related issues.

Carolissen told The Star on Thursday that NSFAS could not reveal how much money was diverted by the arrested employees as all evidence was handed over to the SAPS for processing following the arrests.

“The arrests came after NSFAS received queries from students who detected suspicious activities in their accounts,” he said.

Carolissen added that the arrests would not have an impact on the 2020 applications cycle, which was expected to close on November 30.

Chairperson of the committee Philly Mapulane said: “The committee takes a zero-tolerance stand to fraudulent and corrupt activities, especially when investment is made towards expanding access to education and training for the historically disadvantaged people, to enable our country to produce a skilled and capable workforce to drive economic growth and to eradicate poverty, narrow inequality and create employment.”

Mapulane added that the committee told the NSFAS administrator that “no stone should be left unturned” to guarantee that the stolen money was recovered.

“The committee will continue to monitor progress in this regard and will also urge NSFAS to strengthen its internal controls to ensure that there is no recurrence of this incident, and we will at the earliest convenient time engage with NSFAS on other matters relating to the strengthening of the entity to deliver on its mandate,” he said.

NSFAS added that it came to its attention that there were people who posed as NSFAS officials soliciting applicants to pay them in order to have their application processed or have access to application forms.

“NSFAS would like to caution all students applying for the 2020 funding to be careful in managing their accounts.

“We want to stress that NSFAS applications are free,” said Carolissen.

NSFAS has appealed to students, applicants, employees and community members to report any suspicious activity promptly on their fraud hotline.