In todays latest NSFAS News – The recent leak of voice recordings by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) has implicated the Chairperson of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), Ernest Khosa, and the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, in corruption involving the NSFAS direct payment system. These allegations have sent shockwaves throughout the education sector and have raised concerns about the misuse of funds meant for student financial aid.
The Damning Allegations
According to the leaked voice recordings, service providers allegedly paid millions of rands to Minister Nzimande and Chairperson Khosa, with the South African Communist Party (SACP) also receiving a substantial sum of money. In return for these payments, tenders and protection for the service providers were provided. The recordings also revealed that Khosa had knowledge of the former NSFAS CEO’s wrongdoing and had taken steps to protect him. Additionally, Khosa attempted to manipulate the case involving irregularities in the NSFAS direct payment system by appointing a legal firm that he could control.
Minister Nzimande’s Response
In a media briefing held on Monday afternoon, Minister Nzimande addressed these allegations and vehemently denied any involvement in corruption or the misuse of NSFAS funds. He dismissed the allegations as baseless and part of a malicious fight back campaign. The Minister stated:
“I have never used any money from any of my departments for the purpose of funding the SACP nor have I received any kickbacks from the service providers of NSFAS or any of the other entities falling under my departments. These are all lies that emanate from a malicious fight back campaign. My conscience is clear, and I have nothing to hide or fear.”
The Minister expressed his concern about the impact these allegations could have on the start of the 2024 academic year and the reputation of the NSFAS board. He assured the public that both the Department and NSFAS are working with law enforcement agencies to investigate any maladministration and corruption allegations.
Calls for Dismissal
The leaked voice recordings and the subsequent allegations have sparked outrage and calls for the dismissal of Minister Nzimande and Chairperson Khosa. Student unions and organizations, in particular, have voiced their concerns and demanded accountability. Minister Nzimande expressed his disappointment in these calls for dismissal, especially considering the efforts his department has made to prioritize student funding and broaden access to education. He stated:
“Government has prioritized student funding and the broadening of access to those sections of our community which had no access to post-school education and training in the past. That’s why I take the strongest exception to be called a ‘thief,’ to actually take money away from the poor students. I have no such record.”
Investigation and Actions Taken
To address the concerns raised by OUTA and the public, the NSFAS board has initiated proceedings to terminate the contracts of the four service providers implicated in the corruption allegations. This action aims to ensure accountability and prevent further misuse of funds.
Meanwhile, the Department of Higher Education and NSFAS are working closely with law enforcement agencies to investigate the allegations and bring any responsible parties to justice. The Minister emphasized the importance of transparency and accountability, stating:
“We will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that any maladministration and corruption allegations are thoroughly investigated. It is crucial that we maintain the trust of the public and the students who rely on NSFAS for financial assistance.”