Administrator Nomvalo tasked with nursing ailing NSFAS back to good health

Blade positive fund functionality intact

Minister of higher education Blade Nzimande says administrator Sithembiso Nomvalo will manage the day-to-day work at NSFAS, steer the fund and address its operational challenges.
Minister of higher education Blade Nzimande says administrator Sithembiso Nomvalo will manage the day-to-day work at NSFAS, steer the fund and address its operational challenges.
Image: GCIS

Higher education minister Blade Nzimande says the functioning of the troubled National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) will not be affected by the appointment of an administrator.

Nzimande said yesterday that his decision to appoint Sthembiso Nomvalo to oversee the running of NSFAS was meant to improve the functionality of the institution.

Nzimande said Nomvalo will manage day-to-day work, steer NSFAS and address its operational challenges fully. 

“This will not affect the functioning of NSFAS, so people must not panic. The administrator will oversee forensic investigations on the allegations arising out of Outa [Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse] as well as many other investigations,” he said. 

Nzimande last week announced the dissolution of the entity’s board, saying he had no choice but to place NSFAS under administration because of its failure to carry out basic responsibilities.

NSFAS has been marred by problems as thousands of students went for weeks without getting their allowances, with some students facing eviction from their privately-owned residences because of NSFAS’s failure to pay institutions on time. 

Nzimande blamed former board members for the chaotic state of the entity which saw delays in payment of students allowances to beneficiaries. He said the board had failed to implement recommendations of Werkman’s Attorneys report into the appointment of four Fintech companies to disburse students’ allowances which was found to be irregular.

I engaged the board on several occasions on various solutions, including a turnaround strategy, which has not been achieved within agreed timelines,” he said.  

Among other concerns were the board’s inability to implement some of the most basic responsibilities such as paying allowances to students, which caused unnecessary stress.

Former board member Lisa Seftel said she respected the minister’s decision to dissolve the board as the organisation was not properly managed.

"It’s his prerogative to do what he did. It is a fact that some of [the Werksmans] report’s recommendations were not concluded. It is a fact that there were deficiencies. The organisation is not in a healthy state. The minister took a decision to dissolve the board  and that’s a decision he felt was appropriate,” said Seftel. 

“The consistent inability to respond to student queries in a timeous and efficient manner; and the inability to consult on the guidelines for the missing middle funding and the related inability to implement the missing middle solution,” said Nzimande.

On Friday, students marched to NSFAS offices following the dissolution of the board and demanded more reforms in the institution. 

Tshwane University of Technology's SRC president, Keamogetswe Masike, who led the march, welcomed Nzimande’s steps but asked for further interventions in order to fix the fund.

“The scheme has long collapsed ... but we will wait to see [if corrective measures are effected],” said Masike.

NSFAS COO Errol Makhubela said the scheme has granted a four-month extension to institutions to disperse allowances to students who have not received them.

He said the scheme made advance payments to universities for students allowances including catch-up allowances. These were made on Friday.

“These institutions were requested to prioritise these catch-up payment and further provide timelines. This is for all allowances. When it comes to TVET colleges, this payment will be made on Monday.”

Reacting to the dissolution of the NSFAS board, the Universities South Africa said a well-functioning NSFAS was need because more than 60% of SA’s student population were dependant on the Fund.

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