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NSFAS Has A Horrible Day In Parliament

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NSFAS Has A Horrible Day In Parliament

NSFAS Has A Horrible Day In Parliament. NSFAS, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, found itself under harsh scrutiny during a recent session in Parliament. The organization, tasked with providing financial assistance to tertiary students, faced questions regarding both its ability to accredit student accommodation and its financial management.

NSFAS Has A Horrible Day In Parliament

According to NSFAS officials, more than 36,000 student beds at tertiary institutions need to be accredited. NSFAS has acknowledged capacity issues and says it is working on a turnaround strategy. The Auditor-General has given NSFAS an adverse audit opinion for the 2024 financial year.

NSFAS Accreditation Challenges

During the session, NSFAS officials revealed that over 36,000 student beds across tertiary institutions still awaited accreditation. The acting CEO, Masile Ramorwesi, outlined the numbers, indicating a significant shortfall in both universities and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. While efforts were underway to address this, concerns were raised regarding the pace of accreditation, particularly amidst reports of students struggling to secure suitable accommodation.

Capacity Issues and Turnaround Strategy

Ramorwesi acknowledged capacity challenges within NSFAS, citing issues with registration confirmation, a surge in accommodation provider inspections, and a backlog of accreditations. To mitigate these challenges, NSFAS had enlisted the help of solution partners and accrediting agents. Additionally, an ad hoc committee was established to streamline the accreditation process. Despite these efforts, questions lingered about NSFAS’s ability to expedite accreditations effectively.

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Auditor-General Adverse Opinion

Compounding NSFAS woes, the Auditor-General delivered an adverse audit opinion for the 2021/22 financial year. Ignatius Fourie, a senior manager in the Auditor-General’s office, highlighted systemic deficiencies within NSFAS’s organizational capacity and systems. These deficiencies, compounded by rapid growth since 2018, led to material misstatements in financial reporting. Despite repeated attempts to address these issues, NSFAS continued to struggle with data accuracy and reconciliation.

Addressing Systemic Challenges

NSFAS acting chair, Prof Lourens Van Staden, attributed the capacity issues not to incompetence but to executive management vacancies. To address this, a turnaround strategy was in the works, with the appointment of turnaround specialists. However, concerns remain about the reliance on manual systems prone to errors, underscoring the need for comprehensive reform within NSFAS.

Application Status and Closing

As of mid-February, NSFAS had received over 1.9 million applications, with a significant portion provisionally funded or under evaluation. With applications set to close imminently, attention turned to ensuring a smooth processing and funding allocation process.

Conclusion

NSFAS appearance in Parliament shed light on the challenges plaguing the organization, from accreditation delays to financial management shortcomings. While steps were being taken to address these issues, concerns about NSFAS’s capacity and systems persisted. As the academic year progressed, the spotlight remained firmly on NSFAS ability to fulfill its mandate effectively and transparently.

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