Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Blade Nzimande has appointed a Ministerial Committee of Inquiry to independently probe the business processes, systems and capacity of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
Nzimande made the announcement on Wednesday during a media briefing to update the nation on measures taken by the sector during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said the committee, which will be chaired by former vice-chancellor of Sol Plaatje University and civil engineering professor at Wits University, Yunus Ballim, will make recommendations towards a future model for the administration of student financial aid.
Professor Ballim’s committee is expected to complete its work within six months. Nzimande said the detailed terms of reference of the inquiry were available in the Government Gazette No 43345, dated 21 May 2020.
“I also would like to correct any confusion about the role of the Committee of Inquiry in relation to the NSFAS Administration. The NSFAS Administration comes to an end in August 2020, and the administrator continues to be in office until that time. The inquiry is independent of NSFAS and has no role in terms of its current administration,” the minister clarified.
Nzimande also said that he had requested the Council on Higher Education (CHE) to commission an inquiry on the salaries of vice-chancellors and senior executives at public universities, following a request from Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology.
“The research will assess and/or provide advice on the annual data on the remuneration of vice-chancellors and senior executive managers, and annual salary increases from 2005. Among others, the comparison of salaries of vice-chancellors and senior executive managers to those of academics and the rest of the non-academic staff and workers for the period covering 2005 will also be conducted,” he said.
The inquiry is expected to run for 11 months and its findings will be released by 31 March 2021.
Nzimande said the task team must also deliver an advisory submission on the feasibility of institutionalising a system-wide policy on regulating remunerations of university executives – and the implications of such measures on the principle of institutional autonomy in the context of public accountability for the resources dispensed to universities by the state.
This advisory should be produced shortly after the report’s release on 31 March 2021.
Nzimande also announced that the ministerial task team, established in 2019 by former minister Naledi Pandor, to advise on matters of sexual harassment, gender-based violence (GBV) and harm at institutions, has concluded its work and made recommendations.
Those recommendations have now been processed into a framework for dealing with the scourge and has been approved by Cabinet, he said.
The task team was chaired by Nelson Mandela University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sibongile Muthwa.
“I now expect all our post school institutions to mainstream this framework into implementable actions in each of our institutions. This is indeed a very important step towards effectively dealing with the scourge of GBV,” the minister said.