/ 9 April 2024

Student fund’s payment system under scrutiny again

According to the report submitted by Treasury, NSFAS’ cash available at the end of the year came to R3.7-billion, which was 4.4% higher than projected. Anthony Schultz/M&G
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme has blamed the University of Johannesburg for a financial error that reduced student allowances. (Anthony Schultz/M&G)

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) says the failure by students and institutions of higher learning to submit accurate registration data has affected its payment systems.

In one instance, NSFAS said the University of Johannesburg (UJ) mistakenly uploaded incorrect registration data which resulted in “erroneous allowances being paid out to students”.

“Instead of uploading the correct amount of R16 500.00 for the academic year 2024, the institution accidentally uploaded the R3 300.00 meal allowance,” the scheme said in a statement on Tuesday. 

It called on the university to investigate the issue and communicate with the affected students to correct the mistake. 

“There is a reputational risk associated with this incident. The NSFAS disbursement process might come under scrutiny and be blamed for UJ’s error,” the aid scheme added.

In March, NSFAS tasked universities with the responsibility to act as a “middleman” to facilitate the payment of students’ allowances for February and March.

It said this was a result of the problems it experienced at the beginning of the academic year, which led to delays in receiving registration data from universities. NSFAS said these had since been resolved and as of 1 April, fin-tech companies eZaga Holdings, Tenet Technology, Noracco Corporation and Coinvest Africa had resumed administration services. 

But student bodies are not happy with NSFAS’s payment methods

“Our stance has been that student allowances should be directly paid to students with the sole purpose of eliminating the middleman approach,” said  Vezinhlanhla Simelane, the president of the South African Students Congress.

Students at the uMgungundlovu TVET College’s Northdale campus in Pietermaritzburg took to the streets over the nonpayment of allowances by Norraco, the system the college is using.

eZaga confirmed the delay at the University of Limpopo and the Tshwane University of Technology but blamed NSFAS, saying it was “aware of the delay in the disbursement of your April NSFAS funds. This delay is due to an issue on the side of the NSFAS and is not related in any way to eZaga.” 

NSFAS said its disbursements are based on registration data it receives from higher education institutions and students.

On Tuesday, the scheme said in its current payment circle it had paid university allowances totalling R2 306 583 222, split between tuition to universities, allowances through universities and direct payments to students.