The National Education and Health Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) on Friday submitted a presentation to a parliamentary portfolio committee on multiple allegations of maladministration at the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
Nehawu provincial secretary Eric Kweleta says the appointment of Dr Randall Carolissen as administrator did not solve their challenges.
“We thought the appointment of the new administration would be a Panado to our headache. We’ve seen foreign tendencies in this institution, a replica of the rogue unit was duplicated in this institution. It doesn’t have policies; you have a principal that does as he pleases,” said Kweleta.
The union’s main concern was an allegedly questionable relationship between the minister of higher education Blade Nzimande and Carolissen.
“Minister Blade Nzimande extended the term of the administration for four months from September to December 2020. This was done silently, without the Government Gazette or consultation with stakeholders. The minister did not consult key stakeholders before the extension. Nehawu and Sasco were not consulted,” said Nehawu.
“This appointment places serious constraints on the fiscus due to lack of funds in government. The extension of all advisers amounts to fruitless and wasteful expenditure as they all earn around R2m a year each.
“In addition to salaries, each adviser receives a package which includes unlimited flights home (similar to MPs), month-to-month car rentals, airport shuttles and V&A luxury apartments.”
They alleged that proper recruitment processes were not followed.
“No process followed for the recruitment of the executive management to create the minister’s preferred candidates,” added Nehawu.
‘Offensive and baseless’
Carolissen disputed the allegations. “We want to put it out there that we don’t agree with these allegations. We will co-operate with any legitimate process regarding these allegations. Some of the statements are factually incorrect,” he said.
“We are taking these allegations very seriously. They are offensive and baseless. I reject allegations of a corrupt relationship between me and the minister. I am acquainted with people in the sector – I have worked with many people in my career.”
Carolissen added that he had previously appointed people he worked with before or taught, but always followed proper channels.
Nehawu alleged that the institution continues to operate on a build-as-you-go mode of operation.
“There are glitches in the system. When the students apply, the system cannot confirm their application. Human intervention is needed,” said the union.
There was also a problem with “Sassa validation and home affairs (the application goes through without these stages). This leads to NSFAS funding the deceased, government officials and students above the threshold. This creates confusion and disadvantages students who should be funded. NSFAS does not have a reliable source to verify incomes of applicants.”
The union went on: “There is no stable platform for applications at NSFAS. A student applies for funding but the application gets withdrawn without anyone touching the system. About 20,000 students were affected by the hand of God during 2019 application cycle. This means if the application is withdrawn, it cannot be processed any further.
“In other instances, the hand of God can withdraw the application after the student has been funded. The impact is that the student will not be able to register.”
The union is demanding the removal of the administrator as it deems his contract extension unlawful and irregular.
It is also demanding an independent forensic investigation to be conducted and for some members to be suspended, the dissolution of disciplinary hearings and a freezing of positions and recruitment processes.
TimesLIVE (TMG Digital)