HIGHER Education Minister Blade Nzimande has dismissed claims by the Democratic Alliance that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSAFAS) was in the process of writing off R1.96 billion in student’s historic debt.
This comes after DA’s spokesperson on higher education, science and technology, Belinda Bozzoli, said the party was concerned that NSFAS planned to write off R1.96 billion in debt.
Bozzoli demanded clarity from Nzimande on what criteria had been used to write off the debt, saying if the process of clearing historic debt was based solely on non-payment by past beneficiaries, then it was an indictment on NSFAS for not collecting monies owed to it and those individual beneficiaries for failing to pay back.
Briefing the media on Tuesday on progress in the implementation of measures by the Post School Education Sector in response to COVID-19 epidemic, Nzimande said DA’s claims were factually incorrect and irresponsible.
“I would also like to respond to the allegation from the Democratic Alliance (DA) that NSFAS is “writing off the student historic debt of those who were able, but unwilling to pay, and who may never have been forcefully required by NSFAS to pay,” said Nzimande.
“This is factually incorrect and irresponsible as clearly pointed out by the NSFAS Administrator, Dr. Randall Carollisen, who clearly stated that the R1.96bn referred to by Prof Bozzoli is actually irregular expenditure that arose when the previous board applied unspent historic debt from 2016 and 2017 to fund NSFAS qualifying students in 2018.”
Nzimande said this was a legitimate diversion of funds, adding that due processes were not followed to get approval from National Treasury and as a result, the AG raised it as irregular expenditure.
“This was not a loss to the fiscus but will simply be an adjustment of a book entry with no release of funds or incurrence of any liability. NSFAS is in the process of clearing all irregular expenditure and the AG advised that NSFAS should clear this irregularity as “writing off historic debt”,” said Nzimande.
“I would also like to indicate that the contract of the NSFAS Administrator is still in force until the end of his contract and the finalization of the appointments of vacant senior executive management posts, including the appointment of the Chief Executive Officer.”
“The terms of reference of the Administrator states that he must ensure a smooth transition between the administration and the new executive staff. I am also in the process of initiating the appointment of a new Board in terms of Section 5 of the NSFAS Act 56 of 1999.”
(Compiled by Inside Education staff)