About 34 000 students who were overcharged interest on study loans by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) in previous years will be paid back.
This has been disclosed by Higher Education and Training Minister Dr Blade Nzimande during the announcement of the results of the turnaround strategy carried out to deal with difficulties experienced by the NSFAS.
The interventions, which included the restructuring of the board of NSFAS in December 2010, has witnessed NSFAS move from an audit disclaimer to an unqualified audit.
Nzimande pointed out that when the NSFAS recalculated every student loan in its books, it established that it had overcharged interest on some student loans in past years.
“The annual financial statements show a provision of R77.8 million to refund former students. NSFAS is going to be getting in touch with each one to make necessary arrangements for the refund,” Nzimande said.
He was quoted saying that one of the primary tasks of the turnaround strategy was to correct the value of NSFAS loan book, where a comprehensive exercise was performed with the assistance of a team including accounting, auditing and actuarial experts.
He noted that the NSFAS loan book, which accrued irregular expenditure of R25.6 million over the last financial year, is now correctly valued at R5.2 billion.
“All the reasons for disclaimer have already been resolved to the satisfaction of the Auditor General,” said Nzimande.
The reasons for the disclaimer included the inability to produce scientifically compelling evidence to the Auditor General for writing off R589 million in interest on outstanding loans, along with the failure to provide evidence with regards to how management reached its estimate for doubtful debts.
The Auditor General has additionally pointed out the wrong calculations of interest income of R181 million, when it ought to have been more.
Nzimande further declared that R200 million has been made available to make it possible for NSFAS to grant loans to students who have finished their studies however have not yet received their certificates or graduated as a consequence of outstanding debt.
“This will make it possible for approximately 25 000 students to receive their certificates and enter the job market. All students who fulfilled the requirements for graduation between 2000 and 2010 and eligible for NSFAS loans can apply for this special funding through their student financial offices,” Nzimande explained.
NSFAS board member and executive committee member, Collette Caine, pointed out that every effort will be made to refund students.
“We are committed to track and refund all of them,” said Caine.
NASFAS Chairperson of the Finance Committee, Nathan Johnstone, said universities were in the process of finalising the list of students who have finished their studies and qualified for the grant.
“We are at present not able to provide the final figure of those students as the universities are still finalising the number of qualifying students.”
The hotline for students who have problems regarding access to NSFAS is 0800 872 222.