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Student funding scheme gets new chief executive and board

Higher education, science and innovation minister Blade Nzimande has appointed a chief executive and a 13-member board for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

He made the announcement during a media briefing on Thursday. 

The scheme has been under administration since August 2018 after former higher education minister Naledi Pandor dissolved the board and appointed Randall Carolissen as the administrator.

Nzimande renewed Carolissen’s term twice because the scheme was in the process of appointing a board and a new chief executive. 

The chairperson of the 13 member board is Ernest Khosa, and other members include South African Students Congress president Bamanye Matiwane and the founder and chief executive officer of Africa Teen Geeks, Lindiwe Matlali. 

Nzimande said he would ask the board to find two more members who will bring actuarial and social dialogue skills and experience.

The minister also announced the appointment of Andile Nongogo as the new chief executive for five years. Nongongo is the former chief executive of the Services Sector Education and Training Authority (Seta). 

Nzimande thanked Carollissen, whose time at NSFAS comes to an in December, for a “great job” at the scheme over the past two years. 

“Despite many challenges, NSFAS is a much better entity now than it was when you took over,” said Nzimande. 

Recently, the portfolio committee on higher education in parliament heard numerous allegations, from NSFAS employees, of maladministration, fraud and flouting of recruitment processes against Carollissen.

Two weeks ago, the portfolio committee heard that the minister had allegedly discussed an executive position for a former staff member with Carolissen. Nzimande’s former chief of staff, Sibongile Mncwabe, subsequently got the executive job at NSFAS.

The Mail & Guardian asked Nzimande about these allegations.

The minister said he welcomed any steps that parliament will take to investigate the matters that have been brought before it. He added that the higher education department had also put a team together to look into “what is going on behind the scenes” concerning the allegations. 

But, said Nzimande, until now everyone agreed that Carolissen had done a great job in turning the scheme around and suddenly various allegations were made against him. 

The minister said NSFAS employees who raised the issues in parliament are under investigation at the scheme and the Hawks will be investigating fraud charges. He said they were using parliament to discredit Carolissen.
“That is why parliament also needs to be careful that it does not allow its platforms to be used by people who are being disciplined … No one is an angel, we are not saying the administrator is an angel, but he has done a good job,” he said. 

Nzimande also said it was absurd to expect people who have been hired in ministerial offices not to work anywhere else in government. He said he had no involvement in the appointment of Mncwabe at NSFAS.

“She went through the process of applying and, if she deserves it, she must be employed. This thing that staff that have been employed by ministers are little devils with horns in their heads, we must reject that. It is an agenda of the opposition. I never sat and discussed Sibongile’s employment. NSFAS did that without me being involved. Anyway, she is a competent lady and she does not need me to be actually holding her hand.”

Carolissen took a swipe at journalists who he said needed to do “a bit of investigation” and not take allegations at face value, because they then participated in the tarnishing of people’s names and reputations. 

He said no member of his family was employed at NSFAS and that all people employed at the scheme went through the right processes. 

“If you have anything, put it on the table, and I will give you the facts,” said Carolissen 

“My reputation, luckily, can stand on its own. But some people work with me, and they are outstanding people that are being tarnished and smeared left, right and centre and some of us are going to take action. We are not just going to be recipients of abuse and smear campaigns.”

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

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