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Compiled by Vhahangwele Nemakonde

Digital Deputy News Editor

Nsfas CEO Andile Nongogo placed on special leave as direct payment contract probed

Nsfas's direct payment system has been criticised by students, who claim there are delays in payments and excessive fee charges.

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) has placed its CEO, Andile Nongogo, on special leave amid uproar over the scheme’s direct payment contract.

This comes after a report by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) on the “questionable” awarding of the Nsfas direct payment contract.

ALSO READ: Don’t let Andile Nongogo near public money – Outa

Outa has laid a criminal complaint against Nongogo, also former CEO of the Services Sector Education and Training Authority (SSETA), after its investigation into the Services SETA revealed that R37 million was allegedly wasted due to highly overinflated prices, a questionable tender award process and a total disregard for the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

The invoices were signed off by Nongogo at the time, said Outa.

The organisation further lodged a formal complaint against Nongogo with the South African Institute for Chartered Accountants (Saica).

Following several calls for his suspension until investigations into the allegations have been completed, Nsfas on Wednesday announced it had placed Nongogo on special leave while it launches its own investigation.

“The allegations relate to his work with the Services SETA and how this may relate to unacceptable conduct in the awarding of bids at Nsfas. Whilst the Board recognises that, in the main, the allegations stem from activities in another organisation, it views them in a very serious light,” said the scheme.

ALSO READ: Outa lays criminal complaint against Nsfas CEO Andile Nongogo for fraud and corruption

“Nsfas runs close to a R50 billion budget which services young people from poor and working-class backgrounds. This is no small talk, as it has an impact on skill development and consequently, the economic development of our nation. The board believes that in executing this responsibility, public trust is of paramount importance.”

Nsfas image

The scheme said it would be investigating the allegations with a focus of the direct payment tender “in the interest of the image of Nsfas”.

“The board wishes to reiterate that this investigation is no pronouncement of guilt against the CEO, but an objective effort to determine the veracity of the allegations,” said board chair Ernest Khosa.

READ: Nsfas defunds students after R5 billion loss as many complain about new payment system

“The board commits itself to transformation and clean governance at Nsfas and will ensure that any activities that defeat the purpose of serving students from poor and working-class backgrounds are addressed decisively.”

Violent student protests

The direct payment system has been criticised by students, who claimed there were delays in payments and excessive fee charges.

As a result, higher education institutions have had to deal with student protests as they call on the scheme to address the challenges.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in Gauteng said on Wednesday that while it supported the right to access higher education, it also supported peaceful protests.

ALSO READ: ‘Corruption allegations couldn’t have been lies’ – Unhelpful NSFAS probe slammed

“The commission is gravely concerned that violence is increasingly being regarded as the preferred method of getting the message across during protests, instead of parties expressing their dissatisfaction and differences in a peaceful manner,” it said in a statement.

The commission said it would, on Thursday, hold a meeting with relevant stakeholders to discuss the issue of violent student protests at the beginning of each academic year.

“The purpose of the engagement is to explore solutions to the problem and determine the potential role that the Commission can play in facilitating a lasting solution to the problem.”

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