IRREGULAR appointments at Nsfas
Job posts and tenders have been disputed by the administrator of the financial aid body
Aconfidential report filed by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) in Parliament has confirmed that irregular appointments have been made under the watch of administrator Dr Randall Carolissen. The report was submitted by Nsfas to the portfolio committee on higher education, science and technology after these allegations were made by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu).
This comes after a complaint filed by United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa to the office of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane in July relating to allegations of nepotism, racism and maladministration in Nsfas.
Committee chairperson Philly Mapulane told members during a meeting on Friday that Carolissen had allegedly asked for the report to be kept confidential because it contained details of the implicated persons.
The report had not been shared with committee members.
However, Mapulane overruled Carolissen’s confidentiality request, stating that there were no details in the report besides the names of those implicated. Those individuals, he said, would be given an opportunity to respond within seven days.
He then referred to three examples of appointments that Nsfas had acknowledged were irregular.
An exchange ensued as Carolissen attempted to deny that the appointments were irregular on the basis that the managers involved had been reprimanded.
“Since the names of the individuals have been mentioned, I want to retract my confidentiality on that particular issue,” said Carolissen.
“In the examples you’ve quoted of when an irregular appointment was made by a manager, a subsequent corrective action has been taken.
“[The appointment can therefore not be viewed] as irregular because the board have satisfied themselves that the necessary action was taken and the manager was reprimanded.
‘That happens on a daily basis in any organisation – certainly in any organisations I’ve worked in. If such transgressions happened, they were dealt with, so they can’t continue to be [listed] as irregular,” said Carolissen. However, Mapulane was unfazed and pointed out that the report had been compiled by Nsfas itself.
“I don’t want us to deny things that are the response of Nsfas. Nsfas acknowledges that these [appointments] are irregular. That’s not my formulation – it’s Nsfas’ formulation. But now I hear you saying, ‘No, no, they’re not irregular’, when there’s acknowledgement in the document that they are indeed irregular,” said Mapulane.
Carolissen then said he did not want to seem evasive. “If we [Nsfas] say it was irregular, then I’ll stand by our report. I’m just trying to explain actions we took. I stand corrected if it appears as if I’m trying to play with words. I’ll have a look at this report one more time and also provide you with further details,” he said.
During the deliberations, Nehawu also alleged that Carolissen had misled Parliament when he presented information last year that he had cancelled a contract that was awarded by the previous Nsfas board and management to the now defunct VBS Mutual Bank and Standard Bank for disbursement of funds to beneficiaries.
Kagisho Mamabolo testified on behalf of Nehawu during the proceedings that Carolissen had misled the committee.
He cited three alleged incidents, including the tender awarded to VBS and Standard Bank.
The other two allegations have yet to be verified. Regarding the VBS and Standard Bank tender, Mamabolo said: “The plan was to have the presentation done by Carolissen, supported by his advisers, but on that day, Carolissen [suddenly] asked me to do half the presentation. So it was basically he and I who made the presentation.
“Luckily, some of the issues in the presentation were things I was familiar with, so I could talk about them. But it was very uncomfortable to be asked on the spot to make a presentation to members of Parliament. If I remember correctly, DA MP Baxolile Nodada asked a question in relation to VBS. The response from the administrator [Carolissen] at the time was that he had reversed the decision of VBS.”
In his response to Mamabolo, Carolissen said he had tried to be truthful and had double-checked information he was provided with to present in Parliament.
“I did not mislead Parliament and if I was found to be, I’d like to be [told how I was misleading]. I was thinking very hard about the issue of VBS, trying to recollect the incident Mamabolo referred to. He is correct, but where I differ with him is on what was presented in Parliament. It should be fairly easy to check up on exactly what was presented,” said Carolissen.
“I was very clear in my mind that the previous board had dealt with the VBS part of the tender, so when I arrived, the outstanding part of the tender was Standard Bank, because it was a joint award.”
Mapulane said that, in the two reports that were submitted to the committee last year, Carolissen stated that he had terminated the VBS and Standard Bank tender, citing the violation of the Public Finance Management Act as his reason for doing so.
“These reports suggest that the administrator cancelled the VBS and Standard Bank contracts which were concluded in violation of the act. I take it that we need to follow up [on other allegations]. But, certainly on the VBS and Standard Bank issue, there’s no need to follow up because this information states that the administrator did cancel the tender. If it wasn’t the administrator who cancelled the VBS contract, then we have a problem, because here it says that that’s what happened.
“This is information that was given to us not on one occasion, but on two occasions. I thought we could dispense with it quickly. However, we have to follow up and find out the facts, because presenting misleading information to Parliament is a very serious offence,” said Mapulane.
Kagisho Mamabolo, general manager: corporate services at Nsfas, protests at the Nsfas offices in Cape Town