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The Nsfas Pushes To Resolve Payment Issues For 75% Of Beneficiaries

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The Nsfas Pushes To Resolve Payment Issues For 75% Of Beneficiaries

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has announced significant progress in addressing funding challenges and has successfully validated registrations for approximately 75% of beneficiaries. As students prepare to return to tertiary institutions, NSFAS is urging institutions to expedite the submission of registration data to ensure timely payments for all beneficiaries in the upcoming payment run scheduled for 31 July.

Background

Three months ago, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) conducted an investigation and discovered that NSFAS had disbursed over R5 billion between 2018 and 2021 to ineligible students. Consequently, students who had been receiving monthly allowances since the beginning of the year stopped receiving payments in May. This situation led to protests regarding unpaid allowances, accommodation, registration, and safety concerns.

Resolution Efforts

In response to the findings of the Auditor-General, internal compliance processes, and the observations of the SIU, NSFAS took immediate action to rectify the situation. The scheme initiated a remedial process, instantly defunding students who were found to have been funded based on incorrect information. Furthermore, NSFAS held discussions with the South African Union of Students (SAUS) and direct payment partners to address the issues faced by defunded students. As a result, communication will be sent to all affected students, providing instructions on the necessary steps to follow.

Fast-Track Submission of Registration Data

To ensure prompt payment, all institutions are strongly encouraged to expedite the submission of the remaining 25% of registration data. NSFAS has committed to dispatching dedicated teams to institutions within a week of reopening to facilitate the swift onboarding of students and the issuance of physical bank cards.

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Enhanced Engagement and Accountability

NSFAS has intensified its efforts to engage effectively with universities, TVET colleges, and student organizations to ensure consistent and coordinated support for NSFAS beneficiaries. Recognizing the challenges associated with implementing a new payment system, NSFAS acknowledges that unforeseen obstacles may arise. Nevertheless, the entity remains committed to being directly accountable for the payment of student allowances.

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Improving Payment System Usability

The SAUS has raised concerns about the non-user friendliness of the payment system and the unavailability of service providers’ staff to assist students with signing up and receiving their allowances. In response, NSFAS has committed to bolstering and deploying staff members to assist students as soon as universities reopen. Furthermore, efforts will be made to enhance the usability of the payment system, ensuring standardized accessibility for all NSFAS beneficiaries. The SAUS has also demanded the removal of functional restrictions on the bank cards, allowing students to utilize them like any other bank card.

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Accountability for Noncompliant Institutions

The SAUS has expressed dissatisfaction with universities that have deliberately withheld registration data of NSFAS students. If these institutions fail to submit the required data within the next 72 hours, appropriate action will be taken against them, including reporting them to the Parliament’s portfolio committee.

Ensuring the Integrity of Direct Payments

NSFAS emphasizes the importance of maintaining the integrity of the direct payment system. Any complaints or allegations regarding malpractices will be thoroughly investigated, and if substantiated, appropriate action will be taken. Service providers will be instructed to increase their physical presence at higher learning institutions to better assist students.

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By actively addressing funding challenges and improving payment processes, NSFAS aims to create a dependable and coordinated system that ensures the financial support and well-being of its beneficiaries.

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