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NSFAS chairperson takes leave of absence to deal with OUTA allegations

  • The board of National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has confirmed that chairperson Ernest Khosa is taking a 30-day leave of absence.
  • Khosa says he will use the time to address the allegations levelled against him following the release of damning recordings by OUTA.
  • Despite the chaos, the NSFAS board says 2024 student applications are running smoothly.

2023 was a particularly tough year for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), as it dealt with a poorly handled switch in student payment facilitators, as well as confirming that fewer students would recieve funding for this upcoming academic year.

The latest issue that the government entity is dealing with stems from a damning report and recordings released by OUTA last week, in which several serious allegations were levelled against NSFAS and its leadership.

This week, the board of NSFAS held a special meeting to its readiness for the 2024 academic year, also confirming that chairperson Ernest Khosa is taking a 30-day leave of absence.

He is said to be using the time to address the OUTA allegations, and in particular claims that he had corrupt dealings with Coinvest, one of the vendors involved in the new payment partner fiasco of last year.

“OUTA confirmed that criminal charges had been drawn up with regards to the leaked recordings against Minister Nzimande, Ernest Khosa, Thula Ntumba, the directors of Coinvest as well as Coinvest Africa itself for corruption and bribery in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (No. 12 of 2004),” OUTA noted in a statement this week.

In response, the NSFAS board shared that Khosa is disputing the allegations despite their being audio evidence to the contrary.

“The Chairperson reiterated to the Board that he had never received any financial gratification for his personal use or facilitated any for the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation or the South African Communist Party,” a NSFAS statement declared.

“The Board takes this opportunity to thank Mr Khosa for his honourable, brave and responsible decision to voluntarily take leave of absence, and hails his decision as a responsible and conscious step to advance good corporate governance, transparency and accountability. The Board would like to emphasise that this  decision should not be interpreted as an admission of guilt on the part of the Chairperson,” it added.

As for the organisation’s readiness for the 2024 academic year, the board looked to assure South African students that all efforts are being taken to ensure a successful start.

“The Board would also like to report to the public that the 2024 application process is proceeding extremely well, with applications having reached the nine hundred thousand (900 000) mark. The NSFAS Board would like to encourage all prospective students to apply for the bursary while they are awaiting their final matriculation results,” it concluded.

Whether NSFAS can indeed kick off the 2024 academic year smoothly remains to be seen, but the current issues plaguing the organisation do not bode well for students, who often have to bear the brunt of the turmoil as they wait for much-needed payments to be processed and delivered each month.

[Image – CC BY-ND 2.0 DEED GovernmentZA on Flickr]

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