NSFAS Stands By Direct Payment System Amidst Corruption Allegations

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More than one million students are currently receiving comprehensive bursaries from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. However, several challenges are preventing students from accessing their bursaries. 

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The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is concerned about the disruption of universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. These disruptions stem from the introduction of a new NSFAS allowance payment system and the  defunding of students.  

NSFAS briefed the media on Monday afternoon to update the public on the current state of affairs at the financial aid scheme. Officials touched on challenges around the new payment system, defunding of students and streamlining student accommodation. 

New Allowance Payment Method 

NSFAS board chairperson Ernest Khosa says they are concerned about the notion that they implemented the new direct allowance payment system without proper engagement with stakeholders. They say the system was introduced following many consultations. 

Nongogo explained that the new payment system was introduced to combat fraud and ensure students receive their allowance payments.

He continued to say that the student centred model was introduced to reduce the amount of roleplayers related to NSFAS services. This aimed to ensure that students were not sent “from pillar to post” for information related to their NSFAS funding. 

Most of these initiatives were a response to the call by sector stakeholders, especially students themselves who cited the scattered processors as the source of frustration these students were being sent from pillar to post whilst looking for answers regarding the status of their application. 

Khosa reaffirmed NSFAS’ commitment to ensure that only deserving students receive funding. However, the erroneous funding of undeserving students have required the scheme to improve their verification controls 

It is estimated that R5 Billion was wrongfully paid to undeserving students by NSFAS over the last few years. 

If we are not firm on our authentication processes, we run the risk of paying ghost students 

USAf Criticises NSFAS Payment System 

The Universities of South Africa (USAf) Board has criticized the NSFAS for its decision to directly disburse students' allowances, citing concerns about untested implementation at universities.

They suggest a phased approach for implementing the new system within universities to mitigate potential risks. Direct payments to students also raise concerns about NSFAS potentially continuing to pay ineligible students due to the lack of integration between university and NSFAS databases.

USAf says recent reports from NSFAS indicate that over 50,000 students (14%) still need to be onboarded, placing undue financial pressure on them, as they need to cover rent and face eviction threats from landlords.

They say this situation not only strains students but also jeopardises universities' operations, as they grapple with students' financial issues while being excluded from direct payment contracts.

Corruption Allegations Against NSFAS CEO

NSFAS CEO Andile Nongogo was asked to respond to corruption allegations against him related to his work with the Services Sector Education and Training Authority (SSETA). 

Nongogo says it was unfortunate that the question was asked in the NSFAS briefing. They added that the SSETA routinely received clean and unqualified audits whilst they were employed at the SETA.

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On Friday morning, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) released a statement announcing that majority of NSFAS students at universities have now been onboarded onto the new direct payment system. This direct payment system has been the centre of protests taking place across the country.

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