Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

Donor funds will be safe under the Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (ISFAP), Sizwe Nxasana, who chairs ISFAP and the National Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), assured corporate donors in Johannesburg.

Nxasana said donor funds would be appropriately managed under Ikusasa as the system had an integrated monitoring tool that kept track of students’ academic progress and funding needs. He was speaking after it emerged last week that service provider IntelliMali had misallocated R14.1m into a student’s account.

IntelliMali is a privately owned company in charge of disbursing NSFAS allowances to students at Walter Sisulu University on behalf of the institution.

"Through data analytics we can pick up academic performance before the university gives a report. In real time we are able to tell when a student is battling or having a good time and partying," said Nxasana.

ISFAP was introduced in 2016 as an alternative funding model for higher education. It has been piloted across seven universities and Orbit College, with 2,000 students forming part of the project.

This public-private partnership uses a mixed-funding model incorporating grants, deferred income payment and family contribution to fund students.

The Department of Higher Education and Training has allocated about R900m for capacity building. About R180m was raised from the private sector in 2017 and a target of R700m has been set for 2018 in order to expand the project.

"The money is very safe," Nxasana said "There is not a cent that is going to be lost."

Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande agreed and said his department would ensure public funds were not misappropriated.

While IntelliMali has taken full responsibility for its bungle, an investigation is under way to determine how the multimillion-rand error was made. Nzimande has also requested a report from NSFAS and Walter Sisulu University on what happened and to clarify if the R14m deposit was really an error.

Nzimande has asked the department to interrogate why some universities were using third-party services to distribute NSFAS allowances instead of using internal services and how many institutions were going this route.

He also raised concerns that IntelliMali had made no indication of what it would do about the employee responsible for the blunder. Nzimande said norms and standards needed to be developed by the department and NSFAS on how to handle NSFAS money to avoid wasteful expenditure.

Nxasana said the liability of fund dispersal lay with the service provider which had a contractual obligation to make sure money was disbursed in a particular way. He said those responsible needed to pay back the money.

gumedem@businesslive.co.za

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