NSFAS receives qualified audit from Auditor-General

Kimi Makwetu’s highlighted ineffective internal controls that saw NSFAS overspend by more than half a billion rand on student loan and bursary agreements.

Learners testing the NSFAS online application system. Picture: Supplied

CAPE TOWN - Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu has given the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) a qualified audit.

Makwetu has highlighted ineffective internal controls that saw NSFAS overspend by more than half-a-billion rand on student loan and bursary agreements.

He also says he couldn’t confirm the correct value of the student loan book’s carrying value, which NSFAS says is just over R10 billion.

NSFAS was put under the control of an administrator, Randall Carolissen, after the resignation last month of its board chairperson, Sizwe Nxasana.

But NSFAS’ annual report shows the impact on an already struggling organisation after former President Jacob Zuma’s bombshell announcement last December that tertiary education would be free from 2018 for students from poor and working-class households.

Zuma’s surprise announcement came as NSFAS was still battling to get on top of its new centralised system of managing all students’ loans and bursaries, rather than this being done through 26 universities and 50 TVET colleges.

Nxasana says in the annual report these two events made for a VUCA - "a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous" situation "that became increasingly difficult to navigate".

The former board chair says that NSFAS had to "change approach midway" to try and make fee-free education possible.

The annual report says that funding decisions were delayed as a result of Zuma’s sudden announcement, while difficulties in integrating NSFAS systems with universities and colleges - and students not signing contracts on time – also led to long delays in students being paid out.

(Edited by Thapelo Lekabe)