The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), which has a mandate of supporting disadvantaged students, underspent R2.5 billion last year.
This was revealed by the scheme’s CEO, Steve Zwane, when he appeared before the higher education and training portfolio committee in parliament.
Every year, there is a number of deserving students who do not receive funding, as the scheme claims there are no funds.
On Wednesday, MPs questioned the scheme’s colleges funding, student allowances, the underspent R2.5 billion, challenges related to the implementation of student-centred model and cash flow challenges.
The Democratic Alliance’s Prof Belinda Bozzoli said the underspent R2.5 billion was a lot of money, and students could have benefited from it.
“How many students could have been supported through this sum, why is it not spent, and what do you intend doing with it next year?” she asked.
ANC MP Julie Killian said the underspent funds should be questioned.
“NSFAS cannot have a surplus in this fund if we have so many needy students out there who would have benefited. This is really disconcerting, and we need further explanation. There has to be a proper reasoning for what is at the root for all of this.
“The total amount spent on student loans is significantly skewed on money spent on students at university and technical and vocation education and training (TVET) students. TVET education is not cheap because of the need for quality equipment to train students,” she said.
NSFAS chairperson Sizwe Nxasana said the R2.5 billion was related to the processes within the scheme, and some had to do with migration and may have affected the disbursements.
“These were not issues that depended on what NSFAS could or could not do, they had to do with an abnormal situation that was there at the time,” he said.
The scheme was also asked about the R14 million erroneously paid out to a Walter Sisulu University student earlier this year.
Zwane said a lot of young people have access to the higher education, but the scheme still faces a number of challenges.
“One of the challenges we faced this year is the issue regarding the R14 million payout to a student. There is now an expensive forensic investigation and it’s hard to go into the details of it as that could compromise the investigation if we reveal information into that matter,” he said.