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By Marizka Coetzer

Journalist


Student protests against Nsfas vindicated: Scandal unearthed in investigation

After an investigation into Nsfas, disciplinary action is promised against those involved in irregularities.


It seems the students protesting against the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) were right all along. In recent months, students benefitting from the Nsfas closed down universities to demand Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande fix the mess. After their demands were ignored, the students took to the streets to protest against the new service provider over late payments, nonpayment and service fee increases which saw some students being suspended when the march turned violent in August. Last month, Nzimande said there was no crisis at Nsfas – only for Nsfas chair Ernest Khosa to announce that…

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It seems the students protesting against the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) were right all along.

In recent months, students benefitting from the Nsfas closed down universities to demand Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande fix the mess.

After their demands were ignored, the students took to the streets to protest against the new service provider over late payments, nonpayment and service fee increases which saw some students being suspended when the march turned violent in August.

Last month, Nzimande said there was no crisis at Nsfas – only for Nsfas chair Ernest Khosa to announce that concerns were found during an investigation by Werksmans Attorneys and advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi into allegations of irregularities relating to service providers’ appointment and the allegations against the CEO, Andile Nongogo.

Staff associated with wrongdoing to face disciplinary action

Yesterday, Khosa said all staff members associated with wrongdoing, as mentioned in the report, would face disciplinary action and all the four direct payment service providers would be notified that their contracts would be terminated.

“The Nsfas board will also give Nongogo an opportunity to advise on why his contract should not be terminated,” he said.

Khosa said the board will ensure that the termination of the involved service providers does not affect students negatively.

“The board has noted that there was no feasibility study before the current implementation of the direct payment system, particularly the justification for the appointment of the four service providers. The report established that Nongogo actively participated in the presentation to the bid evaluation committee (BEC) of proposals by service providers. This is a material violation of public procurement processes of Nsfas which he was employed to safeguard and uphold,” he said.

ALSO READ: Nsfas CEO’s contract in question after damning investigation

Khosa said the report revealed a conflict of interest in the appointment of these fintech service providers.

“The report also states that the CEO appointed Dr Chirwa to assist the BEC as a technical advisor. This appointment was inherently incorrect, as the 2021 supply chain management policy does not provide for the appointment of an expert to the BEC,” he explained.

Khosa said the companies involved were eZaga Holdings of which eZaga remit was a subsidiary, Africawide Consulting and Africawide Foundation.

“According to the report, there is a possible relationship between Nongogo and Coinvest and eZaga Holdings,” he said.

Some directors of Tenet Technologies were the same directors of Coralite

“Another concern raised in the report is the inability of not conducting a thorough due diligence of the service providers. For example, in its presentations, Tenet Technologies mentioned that they would be subcontracting to a company known as Coralite,” he said.

Khosa said the investigators conducted a companies and intellectual property commission search and it revealed that some directors of Tenet Technologies were the same directors of Coralite.

“This indicates a clear relationship between the directors of Tenet Technologies and Coralite,” he said.

Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse investigations manager Rudie Heyneke said the organisation welcomed the findings and recommendations as conveyed by the board.

ALSO READ: Outa flags Nsfas’s parliament report discrepancies

“Yes, students were right,” he said, adding that Nongogo had a history of alleged wrongdoing.

“One thing is for sure, he should not be allowed the public purse ever again,” he said.

Heyneke said a payment system that was in the best interest of students should be put in place.

Nicky James, from eZaga, said they haven’t seen the report and would soon respond on the allegations.

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