Student funding corruption probe concluded

Blade Nzimande. Picture: Nico Gous
Blade Nzimande. Picture: Nico Gous

A forensic investigation into allegations of corruption in the National Student Funding Scheme has been finalised.

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) director-general Gwebinkundla Qonde announced today that the report would be submitted to minister Blade Nzimande.

He was speaking to reporters during a media briefing about the department’s state of readiness and opportunities available for matriculants at the Government Communications Information Services building in Pretoria.

Government has pumped billions of rands annually into NSFAS to assist needy students to further their studies at 26 universities and 50 Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges in the country.

Last year, the department announced that it appointed Nexus Forensic Services in September 2015 to conduct a probe into allegations of fraud and corruption in the allocation of NSFAS at ten institutions of higher learning.

These included:

Tshwane University of Technology;

Durban University of Technology;

University of Limpopo;

North-West University;

University of the Witwatersrand;

University of Zululand;

Majuba TVET College;

King Hintsa TVET College;

Ehlanzeni TVET College; and

Buffalo City TVET College

At the time, the department said part of the probe would determine the extent of misrepresentation and fraud committed by students who qualified and have received financial aid, including parents and guardians, employees of public universities and TVET colleges, NSFAS employees and individuals who have manipulated financial aid processes to defraud NSFAS.

Speaking at the same media briefing today, Nzimande said R15.2 billion was allocated for NSFAS this year.

He said NSFAS will fund 205 000 new and continuing students at universities.

An additional 200 000 students will benefit at TVET colleges.

The minister said there were places for 197 400 new university entrants across 26 universities in the country this year.

“The 2017 university enrolment planning process addresses specific scarce skills areas, which have been identified as critical to achieve the goals of the National Development Plan, New Growth Path and Industrial Policy Action Plan in engineering sciences, animal and human health sciences, natural and physical science and teacher education,” Nzimande said.

Of the 197 400 new students, about 63 950 will be enrolling in scarce fields that include engineering programmes, life and physical sciences, human health programmes and veterinary sciences.

Government will pay the fee increase, capped at 8%, for all qualifying registered students with a gross combined family income up to R600 000 a year.

“This is a grant, which covers the increases for tuition fees and university or college managed accommodation, and will not have to be repaid by qualifying students. This will benefit more than 75% of university and TVET college students, and in some institutions, more than 90% of students,” Nzimande said.

He said he believed there was a third force involved in the #FeesMustFall protests, which gripped the country last year.

Nzimande said there were “opportunists” who took advantage of the legitimate cause of students.

He said these opportunists burnt down property to discredit the ANC government, while others used the protests hoping that university statuses would be damaged to start private institutions to make a “lot of money”.

Nzimande said protests over access to universities were prevalent even during the apartheid era in black universities. Government was in agreement with the students’ cause and this was evident by its policies, he said.

“We are on the same side. We have policies to fund [poor] students up to the undergraduate [level].”.

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