With OUTA releasing damning allegations against NSFAS and the Higher Education Minister, the Department and financial aid scheme are scrambling to not only respond, but put these allegations to rest. The Minister held a press briefing on Monday afternoon to address this.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) leaked voice recordings implicating 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.
Now, the Minister has taken to the podium to address these damning allegations, in a media briefing held on Monday afternoon.
What was said in the leaked recordings?
The leaked voice recordings revealed the following:
- Service providers allegedly paid millions of rands to the Minister and Chairperson with the the South African Communist Party (SACP) receiving R1 million. In return, tenders and protection for service providers were provided.
- A day before it was announced that Andile Nongogo, the former NSFAS CEO, would be placed on special leave, Khosa met with Thula Ntumba, husband of Tshegofatso Ntumba, who is one of two Coinvest directors.
- Khosa had the opportunity to exclude everything that would possibly create a problem for Nongogo and was aware of Nongogo’s wrongdoing in the past
- Khosa said he would make sure that they would not be caught out.
- Khosa wanted to appoint a legal firm which he could control to handle the case with irregularities found with the NSFAS direct payment system, Werksmans Attorneys
- Khosa changed the contents of a letter signed by Nongogo
- The Minister was aware of their relationships with the Fintechs and suspected that investigators were tracking their cell phones
- Should service providers contracts be cancelled, “it should be done in such a way that Coinvest would not look “guilty””
According to OUTA, these recordings show that there is a network within the Department and NSFAS which public officials and service providers use to benefit from.
Minister Nzimande’s Response
The Minister believes OUTA released these allegation with the intention to tarnish his image and the department’s as well as undermine the NSFAS board. Nzimande said that this is being done to disrupt the start of the 2024 academic year.
He went on to deny any allegations that he benefitted from NSFAS or the department:
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 if the other entities falling under my departments.
“I therefore wish to dismiss this baseless insinuation by OUTA that I was involved in any corruption at NSFAS. 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 continued.
NSFAS and the Department is said to be working with law enforcement to sure that any maladministration and corruption allegations are investigated.
Along with these damning allegations came calls for the Minister and NSFAS Chairperson to be dismissed. Among these voices were those of student unions and organisations, which the Minister says concerns him as his department regularly consults with these students.
Government has prioritised student funding and 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.
Nzimande also revealed that the NSFAS board will soon begin the proceedings to terminate the contracts of the four service providers, which was one of the concerns expressed by OUTA.