Blade Nzimande orders probe of skills fund after R5bn unaccounted for
Higher education and training minister Blade Nzimande has appointed a forensic company to conduct a full-scale investigation into the financial affairs of the national skills fund (NSF).
Just under R5bn could not be “properly accounted for over two financial years’", he said while tabling his 2022/2023 budget in parliament on Thursday.
“As a department we are committed to deal with maladministration and corruption at the national skills fund.”
Despite this, Nzimande said the fund would support scholarships and bursaries in 2022/2023 by providing R866m.
The budget is expected to be distributed as follows:
- R221m to the national research foundation;
- R527m to the national student financial aid scheme;
- R80m to the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development; and
- R9m to the department's internal scholarship.
Last year, Nzimande came under fire in parliament's standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) for hiring private forensic investigators to conduct a probe instead of using the Special Investigating Unit (SIU). Nzimande said the plan was to forward the findings by the private investigation to the SIU, which is empowered to take the matter further.
He said government was committed to financially support students from poor and working class backgrounds while also putting a sustainable mechanism in place to support students from the so-called “missing middle” and postgraduate students.
The department’s budget for the 2022/2023 financial year is R130.1bn, with an annual average increase of 7%.
The budget is expected to be distributed between six programmes: administration; planning; policy and strategy; university education; technical and vocational education and training; skills development and community education and training.
Nzimande has appointed a ministerial task team to conduct a strategic review of the NSF.
The task team will, among other things, look at “the general operations of the NSF, its efficiency and relevance with regards to the national skills priorities of the country”.
The team will hand over a final report by June.
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