Students blow bursary cash on parties

2015-01-18 15:00

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Some South African university students are getting their parents to fork out tens of thousands of rands to fund their studies – while secretly getting money from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme so they have double the cash.

They then take their parents’ money and blow it on parties and shopping sprees, says the department of higher education and training.

Then a “substantial number” don’t repay their loans – and go to work in the civil service.

The department has now instituted a forensic probe into the abuse of the scheme, and of similar funding systems at South Africa’s universities.

The scheme’s chief operating officer, Luxolo Rubushe, told City Press in an interview in Johannesburg on Friday that “anecdotal evidence” suggested many people were defrauding the aid scheme.

“People falsify affidavits and claim that they are indigent and get an affidavit to prove it. Meanwhile, all parents are working and earning decent salaries,” Rubushe said.

“There is a parent who came to us after finding out we were paying for his son. He asked us to stop paying for his son, saying he could afford it.

“Others defraud the scheme by claiming accommodation, transport and money for food when they live at home with their parents.”

When these kinds of incidents came to their attention, a forensic investigation was begun, Rubushe explained.

On Friday, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande told student organisations at the University of Johannesburg about his forensic audit.

“There are a lot of people who are benefiting who are not supposed to benefit.

“We have already issued a tender [for the forensic investigation]. We may have to give amnesty to those who come forward. But those who keep quiet and are found out will be dealt with,” he said.

The scheme, which was founded in 1996, has handed out bursaries worth R50?billion and benefited more than 1.5?million students.

Last year, about 420?000 students received bursaries from the scheme and the projection is that the fund will be reaching about 4?million students by 2020.

But one of its biggest problems is recovering the debt. The scheme’s spokesperson, Kagisho Mamabolo, said former students owed the fund about R7.5?billion.

About R2?million of this was written off in the past two financial years.

Rubushe said the scheme was using the SA Revenue Service (Sars) database to trace debtors who are employed in the public sector.

“You know what they say – charity begins at home. We are busy distilling the data and we have found quite a substantial number in the public service. We will now approach them and ask them to pay up.”

After dealing with the public sector “cheats”, Rubushe said they would follow up with those in the private sector. “We will find them through Sars data. If they pay tax, we will find them in one way or another.”

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