Nsfas employees defraud students of their funds

 

 

Employees of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) and other people have been defrauding students of their allowances. One staff member was arrested last month for fraud amounting to just over R30 0000.

Officials of the scheme, which is responsible for funding the public tertiary education of poor and working class students, revealed this when they presented the scheme’s annual report to the parliamentary portfolio committee on higher education, science and technology this week.

They said that 510 cases of alleged fraud have been reported to the commercial crime unit in the Western Cape.

The officials told the portfolio committee that students are also targeted through the mobile wallet, sBux. The fraudsters, who are not employed by scheme, know the details of students because they are captured on the Nsfas system. They are then able to hijack the student portal and transfer funds.

Students use sBux to pay for food, accommodation (for those who do not stay at residences), books and travel.The mobile system also allows students to withdraw money or spend it at some of the largest food retail stores.

The officials said the employee arrested last month allegedly committed the fraud during September and October and the money defrauded amounted to R338397.48.

In other instances of fraud, R6783 was taken from October 14 to 20 and R9415 from October21 to 27. This was achieved by changing the cellphone number of the students on the Nsfas portal.

The officials said an internal forensic investigation was looking into the misappropriation of student allowances in 2017 and 2018 through the sBux.

The investigation was, among other reasons, triggered by payments that cannot be linked to students, an internal audit report on cell number changes and prima facie evidence of students being defrauded.

Three Nsfas employees will appear in court on Friday next week, in separate cases, after being arrested at the Wynberg office on October 8 for allegedly making unauthorised changes to cellphone numbers to misappropriate student allowances through sBux.

One employee apparently took R3500 and the other two employees misappropriated funds amounting to R7500.

In another case, a former employee was identified on three occasions transacting on a student sBux account. The money taken amounted to R15 503. The employee has fled the Western Cape and a warrant of arrest has been issued.

A Nsfas contact centre agent also is on the run and a warrant of arrest has been issued. The agent allegedly made unauthorised cellphone number changes and defrauded a student of R8135.

The officials said steps had been taken to curb fraud. The scheme has already blocked the ability to change cellphone numbers on its systems, including through the student portal.

From next year the sBux will be discontinued and instead payments to students will be through their bank accounts. The scheme would verify a student’s ID number with the bank account.

The scheme was put under administration in August last year.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Bongekile Macupe
Bongekile Macupe is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.
Advertisting

Ndabeni-Abrahams lockdown debacle: What we know

The minister has to answer to the president after a picture was posted of her apparently breaking lockdown rules

Covid-19 grounds Nigeria’s medical tourists

The country’s elites, including the president, travelled abroad for treatment but now they must use the country’s neglected health system

Nehawu launches urgent court bid over protective gear for health...

The health workers’ union says the government has rebuffed its attempts to meet about mitigating risks to workers

Stay at home, Cyril said. But what about the homeless?

In Tshwane, forcing homeless people off the street resulted in chaos and the abuse of a vulnerable population. In Durban, a smooth, well-planned operation fared far better

Press Releases

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world