IIE flames NSFAS, calls board change “knee-jerk half-measure”

  • Private varsity group the IIE’s Linda Meyer has taken NSFAS to task over years of corruption and mismanagement at the organisation.
  • She says that NSFAS must be overhauled completely as “corruption is so endemic” that simply changing the board won’t fix the problem.
  • NSFAS must find a way to address transparency, inadequate systems, and political interference in order to succeed with its mandate.

After more than two years of being embroiled in a mismanagement crisis that led to the replacement of the entire board of directors of NSFAS, one of South Africa’s top private college groups has thrown its own opinion of the scheme in the midst, and the sentiment isn’t positive.

Representing the Independent Institute of Education (IIE), the managing director of the IIE’s Rosebank College, Linda Meyer, says that the time has come to overhaul NSFAS in its entirety rather than keep placing “band-aids” when another problem arises.

Since even before 2023, NSFAS has been beset by seemingly endless problems with managing the over R50 billion budget it gets from the government to disburse to disadvantaged young people so they can study at a TVET college or a university.

From the ill-fated and poorly planned launch of the direct payment system, to serious corruption allegations it levied against its own former CEO Andile Nongogo, and now the dissolution of its board amid thousands of complaints of missed payment dates and incorrect disbursals to some of its million-plus students.

NSFAS has failed South African students

According to the IIE’s Meyer, who is also a member of the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC) of the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and a board member of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), NSFAS has been “limping from one crisis to another for years, leaving students perpetually in the lurch and unable to realise their vision for their futures and careers.”

“The NSFAS transformation requires more than cosmetic changes. It demands a commitment to transparency, a willingness to confront corruption head-on, and the establishment of robust systems,” she adds.

Meyer believes simply shifting personnel around NSFAS will do little to ensure its mandate of allowing millions of South African students to receive access to public tertiary education. Instead a “complete overhaul” is required to address lack of transparency, inadequate systems, and political interference.

“The fact is that the corruption within NSFAS is so endemic and structural that changes to the board will accomplish nothing. The issues are deeply embedded in the organisation’s procedures, culture, and perhaps even its informal norms and practices,” she says.

“The futures of young South Africans will perpetually be compromised if we continue to take the approach of implementing knee-jerk half-measures.”

The latest measure taken by NSFAS to address its many issues is the dissolution of its board of directors and the appointment of a department-sanctioned administrator to nurse the ailing institution back to health.

Former Accountant-General Freeman Nomvalo was appointed by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, and he has 12 months to do the job.

Forget the board being changed, NSFAS needs to be overhauled

Meyer adds that the IIE cannot take NSFAS beneficiaries on as students because of “the existing policy of only funding public university students.” She says the institute is interested in empowering all students and for NSFAS to succeed it must act like a government institution.

“Key to turning the scheme around is implementing robust and transparent systems and ensuring ethical governance. NSFAS is a government organisation and as such, it should be taken over by the government. Funds should be disbursed to the universities where accountability measures are in place,” the educator explains.

“Lack of transparency makes the scheme susceptible to corruption, inadequate and outdated systems are prone to manipulation, and political interference has resulted in kickbacks and favouritism.”

We have seen NSFAS’ outdated systems cause students to lose out on their funds in the past, and “lack of controls” saw millions of Rands in taxpayer monies misplaced by NSFAS, only recovered years later by the SIU.

Meyer further alleges that the four fintech universities are not dispensing funds to students, but have yet to be fired by NSFAS, which it claimed it would. She also says that the universities are owed “in the region of R19.2 billion arising from student debt.”

“The situation is so bad that students are starving and sleeping on the streets. Yet responses often involve going on strikes against the very universities that are also victims of NSFAS corruption and mismanagement,” she writes.

“Stakeholders need to demand accountability and transparency to ensure that the next generation of students has a real chance at accessing quality higher education.”


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