Sweeping changes too little too late for NSFAS?

  • Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has axed the entire NSFAS board.
  • He has also appointed former Accountant-General Freeman Nomvalo as the new administrator for the scheme.
  • Nomvalo will have full control of NSFAS for the next 12 months and is expected to steer the scheme out of its ongoing crisis.

The entire board of directors of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) have been let go, and the scheme has been placed under administration by the Department of Higher Education and its Minister, Blade Nzimande.

This follows the resignation of the board chairperson Ernest Khoza and an ongoing crisis at NSFAS, one that has squandered millions of taxpayer Rands, delayed critical payments to students such as for food and accommodation and found corruption allegations for the people in charge of the scheme.

Nzimande’s placing of NSFAS under administration and the dissolution of the board represents the latest and most far-reaching emergency measure for the scheme to remain operational.

“As Minister, I have consistently raised my concerns and unhappiness with the outgone NSFAS Board, about the inability of NSFAS to carry out and implement some of the most basic responsibilities allocated to it,” Nzimande said in a speech to the media at the weekend.

He added that the board has consistently failed to implement the recommendations of the infamous Werksmans Report, that alleged former CEO Andile Nongogo financially benefited from the appointment of the four controversial fintech partners. One of the recommendations was to fire the four companies, which NSFAS has yet to do.

Further issues with the board include:

  • “The consistent inability to make sure students were paid on time, which even threatened the stability of some of the country’s TVET colleges,
  • The inability to submit a correct annual report to Parliament,
  • The inability to address serious and glaring deficiencies at the NSFAS, such as the call centre which is not functional,
  • The consistent inability to respond to student queries on time and effectively,
  • The inability to properly implement the Missing Middle Solution,
  • and more.”

“Despite several engagements with myself, NSFAS continues to face serious challenges in its business processes, IT systems, capacity, and policies and controls,” Nzimande said.

“The dissolution of the Board will not affect the normal functioning of NSFAS, including all payments that have to be made.”

NSFAS will now be placed under the direct control of a new administrator, who takes instruction directly from the minister. This is Sithembiso Freeman Nomvalo, the former and longest-running Accountant-General of the country.

Nomvalo will be in direct control of NSFAS for the next 12 months and he has some glaring problems that now lay upon his lap. He has this period of time to sort out Nzimande’s Missing Middle solution, the NSFAS student loan scheme, finalise all outstanding payments, sort out all discrepancies with funding data between NSFAS, universities and TVET colleges, oversee the application process for next year, and much more.

Essentially the pressure is now on Nomvalo to right the ship, and take NSFAS out of the chaos it has been embroiled in for the last two years. Nzimande has given him the necessary powers to do so, such as appointing new technical experts to assist in the scheme’s operation.

“It can’t be business as usual at NSFAS or within my Department, when students are unable to register, buy themselves food or are threatened with eviction, by private accommodation providers, because their allowances have not been paid,” the minister said.

Nzimande’s dissolution of the board and appointment of an administrator comes in the middle of a turbulent academic year for NSFAS beneficiaries and follows a chaotic 2023. While the media, including ourselves, third-parties like political groups and even the students themselves have said that NSFAS has been in a crisis for some time, the scheme and the department have long said there was no such crisis.

It seems we now have irrefutable evidence. There are seven months left out of the academic year. All eyes will be on the new administrator and on how quickly he will get the ball rolling at the embattled entity.


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