11 September 2018 - NW2384
Madisha, Mr WM to ask the Minister of Higher Education and Training
What (a) were the (i) circumstances and (ii) reasons that informed the decision to place the National Student Financial Aid Scheme under administration and (b) are the terms of reference of such administration?
a) (i) The Minister has through engagement with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) in 2018, raised serious concerns about the failure of NSFAS to effectively confirm funding for students and disburse funding timeously to students in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges and universities. The Department with experts from the sector and support of the Board has provided support to the entity during 2017 and 2018. However, despite this support, the entity continues to face serious challenges in its business processes, IT systems, capacity, policies and controls.
(ii) These challenges have had a grave effect on the student-funding environment since 2017 and have been exacerbated in 2018. Should these matters not be addressed urgently, the challenges facing the entity will continue to negatively impact on the effective implementation of government funding for poor and working-class students to enable them to access higher education and training, and succeed in their studies.
(b) The Administrator will take over the governance, management and administration of NSFAS for one year. The general and specific Terms of Reference of the Administrator during this period will be to:
- Ensure the effective close out of the 2017 and 2018 student-funding cycles. This involves resolving data integration challenges as a matter of urgency, finalising all necessary funding decisions, ensuring reconciliation of funding data between universities and TVET colleges and NSFAS, ensuring that all the necessary agreements are in place, students are accurately funded and recorded, and ensure that all NSFAS qualifying students receive funding;
- Oversee the opening of the 2019 online applications process, ensure that all necessary partnerships for managing the applications process are in place and can be effectively monitored, and develop and manage a communications plan for the application period;
- Develop, in consultation with the Department, universities and TVET colleges, an effective and realistic plan for the 2019 funding cycle and ensure that all parties understand all their roles and responsibilities, and any necessary implementation support is made available as needed;
- Ensure that the entity pays adequate attention to both TVET colleges and universities in all aspects of its core business processes;
- Put in place the necessary management and governance controls to ensure that all risks for the 2019 student funding cycle are appropriately managed, with the support of the Department and institutions as necessary;
- Ensure that adequate plans are in place to make funding decisions at the earliest possible time of the year and as close to the period of registration as possible;
- Manage the day-to-day work of the entity, and steer NSFAS to address its operational challenges fully. This will include the strengthening of structures, systems and policies that will ensure good governance and effective management of the core operational mandate of NSFAS;
- Oversee all necessary forensic and other investigations necessary for the effective operation and management of the entity;
- Work closely with the Ministerial Committee of Inquiry appointed by the Minister to review the business processes of the entity and make long-term recommendations on the future models, structures, systems and business processes necessary for an effective NSFAS; and
- Maintain a close and productive working relationship between NSFAS and universities and TVET colleges, with a view of re-establishing a NSFAS presence on campuses from 2018 onwards.
The Administrator will report to the Minister of Higher Education and Training or her delegated officials. In addition to other forms of communication and interaction with the Ministry and Department, the Administrator is expected to submit a written report every three months on the progress made regarding the issues mentioned above. The Administrator may appoint technical experts where necessary to assist in the different areas.