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NSFAS Appoints Interim IT Head Amid Technical Challenges

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NSFAS Appoints Interim IT Head Amid Technical Challenges

NSFAS Appoints Interim IT Head Amid Technical Challenges. The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has taken a crucial step to address its information and communication technology (ICT) issues by appointing an acting head to oversee these matters. This move comes as the NSFAS board is actively working to enhance the management and leadership within the struggling financial aid organization.

Ernest Khosa, the board’s chairperson, made this announcement during the scheme’s recent briefing to the Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science, and Innovation.

Leadership Improvements on the Horizon

During the briefing to Members of Parliament, NSFAS leadership presented their comprehensive turnaround plan. This plan aims to address the challenges associated with the new direct-payment system and to enhance the organization’s ICT systems. It was revealed that Thulani Melula has assumed the role of acting Chief Information Officer (CIO). Melula’s previous position was senior manager of system support and digital development at NSFAS.

NSFAS has been grappling with a series of departures, including the former CIO Modibedi Oliphant, and the CEO, Andile Nongogo, who was placed on special leave pending investigations into various allegations of misconduct.

Khosa emphasized the need for leadership stability at NSFAS, focusing on strengthening the CEO’s office, ICT department, and HR department. Additionally, he underscored the importance of public relations in fostering staff welfare, development, and cohesion.

Khosa stated that the organization is in the process of appointing a new CEO and head of communication and that they are nearing the selection of a head of planning and strategy.

Addressing IT Inefficiencies

Khosa also mentioned the action taken concerning consequence management, particularly in relation to the head of ICT. The need for action against the former head of ICT was attributed to system inefficiencies and issues related to the implementation of the ICT strategy. An acting head of ICT has now been appointed.

Challenges and Transformations

As an entity under the Department of Higher Education and Training, NSFAS administers a substantial annual budget, serving financially disadvantaged young people. Over the years, it has faced various challenges, including IT system failures and mismanagement. More recently, it has been embroiled in conflicts with students regarding issues such as its new direct-payment system, defunding of students, a non-responsive query system, and accommodation accreditation backlogs.

In September, NSFAS reported that it was taking measures to strengthen its IT systems after a cyberattack attempt on its payment infrastructure and that of its fintech partners.

Enhancing ICT Systems

NSFAS Acting CEO Masile Ramorwesi highlighted efforts to improve the organization’s ICT systems. Currently, applicant identities are confirmed through a three-point verification process.

However, this process has limitations, allowing only 2,500 real-time requests per hour, resulting in delays. To address this, NSFAS is introducing enhancements, including biometric authentication, parental and spousal relationship confirmation, and income validation, to expedite the confirmation process.

Conclusion

NSFAS aims to incorporate third-party data sources like the Department of Basic Education to assess potential beneficiaries before the application cycle begins. The organization also plans to enhance its internal systems to provide efficient responses to student queries.

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