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NSFAS Faces Parliamentary Grilling Over Student Funding Failures

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NSFAS Faces Parliamentary Grilling Over Student Funding Failures

NSFAS Faces Parliamentary Grilling Over Student Funding Failures.In a recent parliamentary session, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) faced scrutiny from the portfolio committee for higher education over its persistent issues with student allowance payments. Here’s a breakdown of the key points discussed:

Harsh Critique from Committee Chair

Chair of the committee, Nompendulo Mkhatshwa, expressed her disappointment in NSFAS, emphasizing that an entity with such a critical mandate should be a model of efficiency, which, at present, it is not.

CEO’s Leave of Absence

The session followed NSFAS’s announcement that its CEO, Andile Nongogo, had taken a “leave of absence” pending investigations into allegations related to his conduct in awarding bids at NSFAS.

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Irregularities in Direct Payments

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) raised concerns about NSFAS hiring businesses without banking licenses to manage direct payments to students, resulting in higher fees compared to commercial banks.

Financial and Academic Appeals

NSFAS reported receiving 170,683 appeals from students regarding financial and academic matters. Of these, 58,924 students were granted funding again, while 6,337 were rejected, and 28,971 were considered “invalid.” Additionally, 44,561 appeals are awaiting academic results and missing information, with another 31,890 still in progress.

Future Plans and Skepticism

NSFAS outlined plans for a faster, digitized application process for the upcoming year, with a 72-hour turnaround time for funding decisions. However, parliamentary members expressed skepticism, highlighting that many students lack access to digital tools.

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Outstanding Allowances

Mandla Shikwambana raised concerns about over 1,300 students at Free State University who have not received their allowances since March, emphasizing the challenges these students face.

Ineffective Contact Center

Walter Letsie criticized NSFAS’s contact center, describing it as “uncontactable” and suggesting it provides little assistance to students. He expressed frustration that the committee has met with NSFAS five times this year about similar issues without significant improvement.

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Application Statistics

NSFAS received 2.1 million applications, with 24% rejected, 2.4% withdrawn, 62% accepted, and 11.6% pending due to missing information. Additionally, 45,927 students were disqualified for submitting falsified documents, with 14,703 applications reinstated after re-evaluation.

New Payment System Challenges

NSFAS acknowledged challenges with its new payment system, noting that any new system experiences difficulties in its first year of implementation.

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Resolution Timeline

NSFAS committed to resolving all internal appeals by September 30, with appeals dependent on students or institutions addressed by October 30.

Committee Deadline

The committee imposed a two-week deadline for NSFAS to present a plan for addressing the issues discussed during the session.

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