Public protector probes NSFAS tender awarded to service providers
The public protector is investigating the awarding of a contract to service providers by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to make direct payments to students in universities and technical vocational education & training colleges.
The Stellenbosch University students representative council (SRC) wrote to the public protector asking it to look into the awarding of the contract to eZaga‚ Coinvest Africa‚ Tenet Technology and Norraco.
SRC vice-chair William Sezoe said NSFAS and the service providers were charging excessive fees for using the bank account.
“It is unjustifiable that students have to cut their allowances to access them and be able to live in a country where the cost of living is already high‚” Sezoe said. “It is unacceptable that NSFAS is charging students they ought to serve. We will await the outcome of the investigation and the public protector must make sure education funds are protected.”
The public protector's office said it was investigating the matter.
“The public protector confirms receipt of the complaint. The matter was registered on July 14 and has been allocated to an investigator‚” it said.
The office would not disclose the measures that would be taken‚ saying: “The investigation is ongoing. Accordingly‚ the Public Protector Act prohibits the disclosure by any person of the contents of any document or record of any evidence given before the public protector or deputy public protector during an investigation.”
TENET South Africa distanced itself from the matter‚ saying it was taking Tenet Technology to court over the use of its name.
“We’ve learnt NSFAS has contracted a company called Tenet Technology to provide a NSFAS bank card. Despite the apparent similarities in name and logo‚ we have nothing to do with Tenet Technology or the provision of payment cards to NSFAS‚” TENET South Africa said.
“Given our long-standing association with the higher education sector and NSFAS‚ the choice of name is unfortunate. It is already confusing students‚ universities and others. While TENET provides connectivity solutions to NSFAS through the SANReN network‚ we did not respond to tender of direct payments of allowances to NSFAS students. Nor are we associated with any of the successful bidders in that tender.”
NSFAS spokesperson Slumezi Skosana said the main objective in NSFAS taking over direct payment was to ensure accountability on student allowances and to establish a better co-ordinated system for the transfer of funds to students.
Skosana said NSFAS expected the new system to be convenient for students and provide allowances in a manner that is dependable and predictable.
“There were several universities that [engaged] service providers in dispensing student allowances. NSFAS would bear no direct accountability for the action of the service providers nor the universities concerned‚” he said.
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