NSFAF troubles laid bare

09 Mar 2018 14:30pm
WINDHOEK, 09 MAR (NAMPA) – The Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) faces a plethora of challenges and may never recoup around N.dollars 1.7 billion it paid in student loans or grants between 1997 and 2010.
This was revealed during a public hearing between the NSFAF leadership and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts in the capital on Thursday.
During the hearing, Rally for Democracy and Progress parliamentarian and committee chairperson, Mike Kavekotora asked how loans were disbursed “in such an unstructured manner that at the end of the day, you cannot see head or tail”.
NSFAF Chief Executive Officer, Hilya Nghiwete said there was a clause in the contracts of beneficiaries which indicated that for certain fields of study, loans would be converted to grants if a given student met a certain academic performance.
That clause never specified to which study fields it applied.
This did not sit well with United Democratic Front parliamentarian Dudu Murorua, a member of the committee, who asked: “Why didn’t you specifically go and find out which fields are the ones that a grant has to be accorded?”
To this, Nghiwete replied that between 1997 and 2010, NSFAF could not find the list.
“Subsequent to that, the list of priority fields was then approved by the Minister of Finance and that is the list that we have been using since 2010.”
Priority fields of study at the moment include agriculture, education and medicine.
Chief among other challenges at NSFAF is that some beneficiaries were minors at the time of entering into their contracts, Nghiwete said.
“In terms of the law, when one is a minor, the repayment cannot be enforced. This means NSFAF cannot compel, at least for now, any beneficiary who went into a contract with the entity while they were under the age of 21,” she said.
Additionally, efforts to bring the Ministry of Finance’s Inland Revenue Department on board to help trace former beneficiaries on its roll are at a standstill.
Inland Revenue is not allowed to share tax information with a third party, which is NSFAF in this instance.
“I can’t say it’s a blow or all is lost, because we are still engaging them (finance ministry) to find a legal way of obtaining the information,” Nghiwete told Nampa on the side.