HIGHER Education Minister Dr Blade Nzimande has congratulated the National Student Financial Aid Scheme 2021 application cycle, saying the number of applicants has doubled from the previous year at this time.
Over 493 904 applications have been received thus far, compared to 2019 where only 287 769 applications had been received by this time.
“These latest statistics are encouraging and give an indication that NSFAS’s efforts in providing easy access through partnerships are yielding positive results,” said Nzimande.
This is despite the 2020 academic year being disrupted by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The minister said for the past three years NSFAS has seen more female applicants than males.
“Female applicants account for 68 percent (338 324) of the total, while male applicants only account for 32 percent (155 543). This trend has been continuing in this trajectory for the past three years,” said Nzimande.
It has been reported that KwaZulu Natal remains the highest province with applications, accounting for 26% of the overall application’s statistics, followed by Gauteng with 21% and Limpopo with 17%, respectively.
“There have been major improvements from provinces which were extremely low in the past two years with the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, Free State and North West, having doubled their previous year’s statistics,” added Nzimande.
Applications for funding will close on November 30.
Meanwhile, the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology has voiced its concerns regarding the delays in the finalisation of the audit of the NSFAS.
The committee was today briefed by the Auditor-General on the audit outcomes of the Department of Higher Education and Training and all entities falling within its portfolio.
The committee was informed by the AG that there is a delay in finalising the audit of NSFAS.
One of the reasons given by the AG in finalising the audit is the unnecessarily long turnaround time by NSFAS in providing the required information to the auditors.
Committee Chairperson, Philly Mapulane, said it was disappointing that this is the second year in a row that the audit of the financial statements of NSFAS is delayed mainly as a result of the inefficiencies within the entity.
“What is of serious concern is the fact that all these inefficiencies and failures to comply with the requirements of the AG in completing the audit happen during the period when the entity has been placed under administration. It does not engender public confidence that the situation seems to deteriorate under the watch of the Administrator who was brought in to salvage the fortunes of the entity and to turn it around,” said Mapulane.
The committee has requested the AG to expedite the audit and have it finalised before the end of the month.
The committee is calling upon the Administrator of NSFAS to pull up his socks and ensure that all the required information relevant to the audit is supplied to the auditors timeously.
The committee was further briefed by the AG on the audit results of the higher education portfolio for the financial year 2019.
The committee was dissatisfied with the overall audit, although it said there are flashes of excellence in the portfolio preparing financial statements remained a challenge for most entities, especially in the TVET colleges sector.
Mapulane said TVET colleges needed to be assisted with preparing financial statements, and generally financial reporting.
“Financial management is an area that the government, and specifically our portfolio, cannot fail in monitoring. There has to be improvements all round and that regression in audits should be dealt with decisively.”
It was also revealed that Pretty Makukule is acting in place of Theuns Tredoux, who has since left the department, whilst she is simultaneously CFO for the Department of Science and Technology.
Although the committee is satisfied with the good work that Makukule is doing at DSI, which led the department receiving three consecutive clean audits, however, it is of the view that occupying two positions in different departments may not only be irregular but may compromise her.
A proper guidance should be sought from the Department of Public Service and Administration on the matter.
Mapulane called on the department to provide an update on the programme that has since stalled, where the department, in an arrangement with SAICA (South African Institution of Chartered Accountants), allocated financially qualified CFOs at colleges to assist with the financial management function.
(SOURCE: INSIDE POLITICS)