Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane is assessing whether a complaint relating to allegations of nepotism, racism and maladministration filed against the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) should be investigated or not.
United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa filed a complaint on Wednesday asking her to investigate the alleged shenanigans at Nsfas.
Holomisa told City Press on Wednesday that Mkhwebane had acknowledged receipt of his complaint. He said he had gone to Mkhwebane because Parliament had no capacity to investigate such allegations.
“The public protector has powers to subpoena any witness including Ministers,” Holomisa said.
In his complaint, which City Press has seen, Holomisa said there were serious allegations made by concerned workers to him against Nsfas administrator Dr Randall Carolissen as well as general collapse of corporate governance at Nsfas. He said workers had also implicated Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande.
Oupa Segalwe, acting spokesperson in Mkhwebane’s office, said a decision would only be made to investigate Holomisa’s complaint or not after an assessment of the complaint.
Segalwe said Nsfas had not been contacted as yet.
This was also confirmed by Carolissen on Thursday, who said he welcomed the complaint filed with Mkhwebane and hoped that it would finally deal with allegations that have been peddled in the media.
He, however, rubbished the allegations made against him by concerned workers to Holomisa.
Carolissen said: “I reject with contempt the baseless allegations that are designed to cast aspersion on me and the team that has turned Nsfas around.
“The fact is that Nsfas has turned around and we are able to deliver during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic and we still pay [students] every month. More than 700 000 students benefit every month from our efficient administration,” Carolissen said.
Nsfas had been placed under administration by Nzimande’s predecessor, Naledi Pandor, following allegations of mismanagement that led to delays in paying out allowances to deserving students.
This led to the appointment of Carolissen in August 2018.
In his complaint, Holomisa said he had been approached by concerned Nsfas employees, who had alleged nepotism, victimisation and purging of staff, racism, corruption, general maladministration and mismanagement by Carolissen.
He said the seriousness of the allegations led him to think that the administration process had been “captured”.
“Worst of all is the allegation that Nzimande – who is supposed to oversee this process and is the custodian of good governance – is aware of some of these issues and [is] seemingly ignoring them and worse still, is involved in nepotism with the appointment of those loyal to him to key Nsfas [and other] positions,” Holomisa said.
Nzimande’s spokesperson, Ishmael Mnisi, confirmed on Friday that the minister was aware of Holomisa’s complaint.
Mnisi would not comment further, instead he referred City Press to a media statement issued by Nzimande on June 20.
In that statement, Nzimande said he was concerned about the Sunday Independent and its group of newspapers’ persistent enquiries about the fight against corruption and maladministration at Nsfas.
He said the newspaper had been sending questions that come from “unnamed and faceless sources, who makes spurious allegations about the minister and the administrator”.
This, Nzimande said, came after Nsfas had initiated disciplinary processes against some employees following the discovery of some wrongdoing and financial misconduct.
Responding on allegations of capture, Carolissen said a forensic investigation instituted under his administration had found extensive theft at Nsfas.
Carolissen would not divulge details contained in the forensic report.
But, City Press understands that some of the alleged theft relates to student vouchers that were cashed in by officials around Cape Town and in different provinces where students were not studying.
Carolissen could only say that Nsfas had been uncaptured.
“On the contrary, Nsfas has been uncaptured. It was like a cookie jar [before this administration],” Carolissen said.
On allegations of racism, nepotism and maladministration, Carolissen denied that there were such irregularities under his administration.
He said when he took over, he found that there were senior managers, who were either poorly skilled, under qualified or not qualified for their positions.
As part of his terms of reference, Carolissen said he appointed specialists, who were approved by Pandor. He admitted that he knew some of them but that there was nothing wrong with the appointments because that formed part of his terms of reference.
He said there were people pushing fake news about Nsfas.
“The fact of the matter is we’ve fired black, coloured and white people or we asked them to leave because if you are caught with your hands in the till, you steal from students.”
“If the interpretation of capture means that the organisation has been position to be plundered, I actually uncaptured Nsfas. We’ve now put in place financial checks, policies and procedures that we can account for every cent that goes to every student. In the past those reconciliation were never done,” Carolissen said.