Stu­dents guilty of al­lowance fraud

The New Age (Gauteng) - - NEWS - LIL­LIAN SELAPISA lil­lians@the­

STU­DENTS from eight in­sti­tu­tions across the coun­try, com­pris­ing tech­ni­cal and vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing (TVET) col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties, have been im­pli­cated or found guilty of al­lowance fraud.

Some have been caught trad­ing their food and text­book vouch­ers in ex­change for cash. In the lat­est in­ci­dent, at least two stu­dents from the Univer­sity of Venda (Univen) were caught ex­chang­ing their coupons for cash.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Stu­dents Fi­nan­cial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) the stu­dents’ ac­counts have since been blocked, there­fore los­ing the money meant to cover their text­books and food costs, among other things.

“There have been sim­i­lar cases re­ported where whis­tle-blow­ers have con­tacted NSFAS and the Vu­vuzela hot­line af­ter wit­ness­ing fraud­u­lent ac­tiv­ity,” NSFAS spokesper­son Kag­isho Mam­abolo said.

“Ini­tially NSFAS has sent warn­ing SMSs to stu­dents who were found sell­ing or ex­chang­ing their al­lowances but as this ac­tiv­ity in­creases it is ev­i­dent that the SMS warn­ing is no longer use­ful and NSFAS is now send­ing a stronger mes­sage to stu­dents not to mis­use the al­lowances pro­vided to them for aca­demic sup­port.”

Last month stu­dents from Univen took to the streets over the al­lo­ca­tion of their al­lowance money.

They stayed away from classes for weeks, say­ing they de­pended on the al­lowance money for their sus­te­nance on cam­pus.

Mam­abolo said the mat­ter had been handed over to NSFAS’s le­gal and risk de­part­ment for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion and that harsh mea­sure would be taken to deal with the mat­ter.

“NSFAS can­not and will not al­low any abuse of tax­pay­ers money.

We want to main­tain a zero tol­er­ance to fraud and cor­rup­tion within the scheme. NSFAS ap­proved mer­chants and stu­dents that are found to be in­volved in any re­lated mat­ters of fraud will face se­ri­ous mea­sures as the act may vi­o­late the sBux terms and con­di­tions,” he said.

“We also urge stu­dents to look af­ter their sBux PINs and their cell­phones as the sBux trans­ac­tions are pro­cessed us­ing their cell­phones.”

In Jan­uary 2014 NSFAS in­tro­duced a new sys­tem called sBux to pay el­i­gi­ble stu­dents their al­lowances for food, books, pri­vate ac­com­mo­da­tion and travel us­ing coupons or vouch­ers. Speak­ing to Ground Up Al­lan Gray said the re­search into the al­le­ga­tions on Net1 was on­go­ing and that they were gath­er­ing as much as they could on the mat­ter.

“This in­cludes meet­ing with civil so­ci­ety groups, in­de­pen­dent re­searchers and third par­ties. We will use the in­for­ma­tion to pres­surise the Net1 board to do the right thing. We wel­come the op­por­tu­nity to share our find­ings and rec­om­men­da­tions once we have fi­nalised our re­search. For the time be­ing our strat­egy on Net1 re­mains the same, con­tinue to hold them to ac­count,” chief in­vest­ment of­fi­cer An­drew Lap­ping said.

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