Legal firm to advise NSFAS board amid chair’s leave of absence

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 7, 2024


Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said the leave of absence by National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) board chairperson Ernest Khosa has resulted in vacancies within the board and some of its sub-committees.

“The board has taken proactive measures to address this situation by reallocating existing members to fill these vacancies, thereby ensuring the continuity of leadership and preventing any void in governance,” Nzimande said in response to parliamentary questions from EFF MP Naledi Chirwa.

Khosa took a notice of 30 days leave of absence to provide an opportunity to NSFAS to deal with allegations against him by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa).

Professor Lourens van Staden is the current acting chairperson of the NSFAS board.

The civil society organisation shared a report containing recordings and transcripts of recordings of two meetings allegedly held between Khosa and NSFAS service providers.

According to its report, Outa claimed that Khosa held private meetings with service providers currently under investigation by the board due to irregular appointments.

The allegations further suggest that he purportedly received financial benefits from these service providers, implying a quid pro quo arrangement for facilitating appointments. Additionally, it is alleged that Khosa made decisions in collaboration with service providers.

Nzimande said since Khosa informed the board of his decision to take a leave of absence, the board decided to appoint an independent legal service provider to advise on the appropriate course of action.

“The firm Tshisevhe Gwina Ratshimbilani Inc (TGR Attorneys) has been appointed and we now await their report,” he said.

Asked how his department planned to solve the operational challenges at NSFAS, Nzimande said the department’s role was to exercise oversight.

“In the process of fulfilling this role, it has approved funding for NSFAS’s ICT needs and capacity challenges,” Nzimande said.

“While these are being addressed, the board has identified experts who will assist with implementing the turnaround strategy of the entity,” the minister said.

“Through reports, the department is monitoring the implementation of the audit plan and mitigation strategies it has advised NSFAS to implement.

“Further, it engages with stakeholders, such as TVET colleges and universities, on whom NSFAS depends for timeous provision of accurate data to address bottlenecks.”

Nzimande added that his department would be instituting a board evaluation programme to assess the board’s performance against key performance indicators, including institutional governance, policies to support critical standard operating procedures and performance management.

Cape Times