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NSFAS Probe Claws Back More Than R700m From Universities

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NSFAS Probe Claws Back More Than R700m From Universities

NSFAS Probe Claws Back More Than R700m From Universities. The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has made significant strides in its ongoing probe into the finances of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), recovering an impressive sum of over R730 million. This extensive investigation has brought to light several concerning issues within the NSFAS system and its management of funds allocated to institutions of higher learning.

Presentation to SCOPA

Presenting its findings to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) in Parliament, the SIU revealed the depth of its investigation and the actions taken to rectify financial discrepancies. The recovered funds predominantly stem from institutions of higher learning, showcasing a concerted effort to address financial mismanagement.

Unallocated Funds and Poor Control Systems

Among the retrieved funds, a staggering R688,220,611.56 was identified as unallocated funds. This substantial sum underscores the existence of inadequate control systems and reconciliation processes within NSFAS. The lack of oversight resulted in funds not being collected from institutions of higher learning, highlighting systemic flaws that needed urgent attention.

Institutional Cooperation and Recovery Process

Despite the shortcomings in control systems, the SIU noted the willingness of institutions to cooperate in the recovery process. This collaborative effort facilitated a swift recovery of funds, demonstrating a commitment to rectify financial irregularities and uphold accountability.

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Debt Agreements and Funding Criteria

NSFAS entered into acknowledgment of debt agreements amounting to R49,705,739 with Motheo Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) College in the Free State and individuals who did not meet the NSFAS funding criteria. This proactive approach signifies a step towards transparency and responsible financial management.

Control Weaknesses and Reconciliation

The SIU identified significant control weaknesses within the NSFAS scheme, leading to overpayments and underpayments to institutions over the period from 2017 onwards. Efforts are underway to address these weaknesses through the appointment of a service provider for close-out reporting, aiming to streamline reconciliation processes and enhance financial accountability.

Celbux System and Dormant Accounts

The investigation also shed light on issues within the Celbux voucher payment system, with numerous dormant accounts totaling an estimated R320 million. This revelation underscores the need for robust monitoring mechanisms to prevent financial stagnation and ensure efficient fund utilization.

Accommodation Funding Oversight

Concerns were raised regarding the oversight of NSFAS-funded accommodation, with details such as physical addresses and landlord information not adequately captured in the system. The lack of vetting further complicates accountability measures, necessitating a reassessment of accommodation funding procedures.

Funds Recovered from Institutions

The SIU’s diligent efforts have resulted in the recovery of substantial funds from various institutions of higher learning, including West Coast College, Northlink College, Walter Sisulu University, and others. These successful recovery endeavors demonstrate a commitment to fiscal responsibility and accountability across the education sector.

Conclusion

The SIU investigation into NSFAS finances underscores the critical importance of robust control systems, proactive reconciliation processes, and institutional accountability. By addressing systemic weaknesses and fostering cooperation, stakeholders can work towards a more transparent and efficient financial aid system, ensuring that funds are allocated judiciously to support deserving students’ educational endeavors.

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