The chairperson of the NSFAS board, Ernest Khosa, has announced that he has received the report on CEO Andile Nongogo’s conduct in alleged tender irregularities, and it will be presented to the full board early next week.
The probe was conducted by a team from Werksmans firm of attorneys and advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC.
Khosa said that after studying the report, the board would determine the next steps to be taken.
Nongogo was put on leave of absence in August following an uproar over the direct payment system at NSFAS which left tens of thousands of students without allowances and subjected to evictions by certain landlords.
The media also published reports on allegations of Nongogo’s conduct in the appointment of four service providers to disburse student allowances over a five-year period from 2024.
The tender contracts for the programme, estimated to be worth over R1.5 billion, were awarded to Norraco Corporation, Coinvest Africa, Tenet Technology and Ezaga Holdings, even though alarm bells were raised that they did not have the required banking licences .
Leaked audio recordings also showed that Nongogo, who was supposed to be an observer, participated and made contributions in bid meetings.
NSFAS received a budget close to R50bn to assist students who would be excluded from access to higher learning on the basis of financial unaffordability.
The scheme has yet to open applications for funding for the 2024 academic year.
According to DA MP Chantel King, she was told by the funding scheme that discussions on the eligibility criteria were only held last week.
“It’s unfair to students to change the criteria every year instead of putting them in place for three years.”
The committee also wanted to know how NSFAS planned to deal with the malfunctioning IT system.
“They have spent close to R80 million to upgrade the system yet it has failed students. Some students have been erroneously defunded in the middle of their academic year. That’s a breach of contract on the part of NSFAS,” added King.
The Weekend Argus had learnt that the last remaining IT developers left about two weeks ago and currently there were none.
Some executive positions are yet to be filled, including that of the chief financial officer and chief operations officer.
NSFAS did not respond to questions as to when these would be filled.
When NSFAS appeared before the parliamentary portfolio committee on Higher Education on October 4, its leaders would not provide answers as to how many students had yet to receive their allowances.
However Universities South Africa (USAf), the body that represents about 26 universities, expressed its concern in August that the new NSFAS allowance system, defunding and accommodation capping, resulted in violent protests.
“The defunding of students in the middle of the academic year has caused challenges for the students and the universities. NSFAS has provided neither the reasons for the revocation of student bursaries nor a mechanism of appeal for the defunded students. Those students who have tried to reach NSFAS have been unsuccessful,” said USAf.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) called on NSFAS to make the report publicly available and share it with the portfolio committee.
“This will contribute to transparency and trust in the NSFAS board,” said Outa investigations manager, Rudi Heyneke.