NSFAS commits to settle 20k disbursements

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 03 Jan 2024
According to NSFAS, it has disbursed about 234 124 students allowances from 5 December 2023.
According to NSFAS, it has disbursed about 234 124 students allowances from 5 December 2023.

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) says it is determined to conclude all outstanding 2023 disbursements by 15 January 2024, in consultation with the affected institutions.

This, after in October the NSFAS board decided to cut ties with the fintech partners selected to disburse monthly allowances to tertiary students.

The move followed an investigation into allegations surrounding their appointment to facilitate the direct payment of allowances to NSFAS students uncovered “conflict of interest”.

NSFAS has, over the years, been faced with a number of challenges, including IT system failures and mismanagement within the scheme.

The NSFAS board appointed Werksmans Attorneys and advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi to investigate allegations against former CEO Andile Nongogo and the appointment of the four fintech partners, to assist the NSFAS to administer direct payment services to students.

The four fintech firms are Coinvest, eZaga Holdings, Noracco Corporation and Tenet Technology.

The service providers were awarded the NSFAS direct payments contract, to the value of R47 billion.

However, they have since have challenged the allegations levelled against them, mulling legal action.

The NSFAS board held an extraordinary meeting on Sunday, 31 December 2023 to consider reports from NSFAS management on various issues including the final disbursement of the 2023 allowances, the NSFAS budget adjustment and the NSFAS accommodation pilot project.

The board says it will further make public announcements on the implementation of the Werksmans Attorneys report in relation to direct payment service providers.

Despite the challenges, the board reaffirmed its commitment to implement the direct payment solution.

“The board views the direct payment solution as a necessary measure to reduce instances of unauthorised access to beneficiaries’ allowances, payment of ghost students, inconsistencies and delayed payments of allowances.

“The direct payment solution is inline with the Student-Centered Model that NSFAS adopted,” said board chairperson Ernest Khosa at a briefing in October.

NSFAS says the commitment made on the outstanding disbursement is to ensure that the 2023 bursary allowances do not affect the returning students for the 2024 academic year.

“Early in January 2024, the NSFAS board will have further stakeholder engagements with the Universities South Africa, the South African Public Colleges Organisation, the South African Union of Students and the South African Technical Vocational Education and Training Student Association and labour unions to brief them on the preparations for the 2024 academic year and the NSFAS eligibility criteria and conditions for financial aid,” NSFAS says in a statement.

According to NSFAS, it has disbursed about 234 124 students allowances from 5 December 2023, as part of the reconciled final disbursements for the 2023 academic year.

It explains that this exercise was done in order to disburse the final allowances to students whose allowances where not concluded due to changes in their registration data.

NSFAS says this process ensures that disbursements are paid directly to institutions for tuition and for advancing payments to students.

“The [NSFAS] reconciliation data…is divided into three categories: (1) direct payment – direct allowance to students, (2) allowances on tuition disbursement to institutions, (3) student allowances via institutions.

“NSFAS confirms that there are 20 000 allowances which are yet to be concluded. These unresolved cases of disbursements require further input and consultation with institutions,” reads the statement.