06 Oct 2013 12:10
WINDHOEK, 06 OCT (NAMPA) - The Namibia National Students Organisation (Nanso) has called for the removal of the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) Board members, accusing them of not performing.
Tertiary education students benefiting from the NSFAF held a mass student gathering at the University of Namibia (Unam) on Friday under the auspices of the Namibia National Students Organisation, where they called for the dissolving of the current Board under Chairperson Ambrosius Agapitus.
Speaking on behalf of the students, Nanso president Timotheus Angala said the appointment of a new Board could result in new ideas on the smooth running of the fund.
Long have the pleas of tertiary students benefiting from the NSFAF fallen on deaf ears. As students we see no tangible results, the same delays in payments of student fees and refunds to students still persist, he stated.
Angala complained that although the implementation of the fund was a good idea, the process has become too stressful as some students have outstanding debts accumulating from previous years due to the NSFAFs inability to carry out its mandate.
He indicated that some students only receive funds meant for books, transport and accommodation at the end of the academic year.
The fund has created so much confusion that at times students are registered as having a loan with the institutions they are studying at, but at NSFAF that particular students records are nowhere in their data base, he said.
He informed the gathering that at a recent meeting held with Student Representative Council (SRC) members from Unam, the Polytechnic of Namibia, the International University of Management (IUM) and the Bankers Institute, a few resolutions were taken regarding the issue.
Some of these resolutions were looking at why students cannot be paid in monthly instalments, the same way pensioners get a monthly grant, he said.
Another resolution was that the current Board be dissolved and a new Board be appointed.
The delay in student payments is partly also because of the N.dollars 375 million owed by students. The NSFAF should get its house in order to be able to recover this money as more students are waiting to benefit from it, Angala noted.
Last Thursday during a public hearing of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts (PAC), the delay in the recovering of the debt was attributed to the fact that the ministry does not have the capacity to trace students who have been assisted by the fund.
Audits carried out by the office of the Auditor-General found that of the N.dollars 375 million owed by beneficiaries, the fund only managed to recover N.dollars 130 000 between 2009 to 2011.
The N.dollars 375 million is money owed for the 2008 to 2011 financial years.
The fund has been failing to meet its objective to at least recover N.dollars 10 million annually from its debtors, Auditor-General (AG) Junius Kandjeke indicated in the audit reports.
It emerged during the hearing that only an estimated 3 000 to 4 000 graduates' names have been forwarded to the AG for legal action.
The PAC demanded answers from the NSFAF over a number of issues, such as its inability to recover the debt, why it had not submitted financial reports for auditing for three years, and why a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was only signed with a company two years after paying it for the management of an information system and capturing of data.
Besides the fact that the fund is owed N.dollars 375 million in debt, some other shocking information came to the fore during Thursdays hearing, such as that the fund failed to pay for its postal box on time in 2011, which resulted in 930 applications being lost as Nampost removed these and it was only collected when the NSFAF paid for its postal box in December of that year way past the deadline for students to be considered for loans.
It was also revealed that while applications to the fund increased from 1 284 in 1997 when the NSFAF was established to 6 330 in 2011, the funds staff complement remained the same at 29.
The AG in addition found that there was a lack of control at the fund in that demand letters are not sent to non-paying beneficiaries and some demand letters are sent inconsistently, while no follow-ups are done with debtors who signed salary deduction agreement forms and no deposits are received thereafter.
Also, there is no mechanism in place for the NSFAF to determine when students complete their studies so that their files can be transferred to the recovery subdivision, and students also do not submit their qualifications as required.