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NSFAS launches forensic probe into R14 million food allowance

BUKUTA NKUNA

THE National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has launched a forensic investigation into the allocation of R14 million food allowance into the meal card of a Walter Sisulu University student.

The financial aid scheme said the probe was to establish if staff members were involved in the fraudulent allocation of the millions. NSFAS spokesperson Kagiso Mamabolo has however indicated that preliminary investigations had not implicated any employee of wrong doing.

“Following preliminary assessments, NSFAS and WSU (Walter Sisulu University) can confirm that no employee on either part has been found to have been involved in the erroneous crediting of the R14.1 million into the student’s IntelliCard account. IntelliMalli has appointed a credible audit firm to institute a forensic investigation into the matter,” Mamabolo said.

He added that Intellimali, the company contracted to allocate food allowances to students at Walter Sisulu University had refunded the outstanding amount from its own pocket in order to deal with the crisis.

“IntelliMali has reimbursed WSU the full amount misappropriated by the student from its own company finances. WSU Vice Chancellor, Prof. Midgley, expressed gratitude that IntelliMali has taken full responsibility for the error and took steps to reimburse the R818 000 loss,” said Mamabolo.

There was much fun fare and dismay when a food allowance slip that had more than R13 million as its remaining balance circulated on social media. It was then revealed that the receipt belonged to Sibongile Mani a student at the university who had allegedly been on a shopping spree for over a period of three months. She was said to have spent over R800 000 of the R14 million deposited into her meal card.

Mamabolo said the university has decided to wait for the outcomes of the investigation before taking any disciplinary steps against Mani.

“No steps have been taken by WSU against the student. The university has opted to await the outcomes of the forensic investigation before considering any further steps. The university is also providing counselling to the student to ensure that she continues with her studies,” said Mamabolo.

He added that despite the mishap, they would continue issuing allowances to students at the institution. He said that was due to the fact that the fund had not incurred any financial losses but rather the service provider tasked with distributing the cash.

“No public funds were lost in the unfortunate process that led to the R14 million error and the R818 000 that was subsequently misappropriated by the student. Preliminary investigations by the service provider have established that these funds belonged to the university, and not NSFAS as initially believed. No other student at WSU has been affected by this error and all remaining student allowances will continue to be managed efficiently by IntelliMali,” said Mamabolo.

He said the university and the financial aid scheme would not be communicating to the media until the matter has been finalised.

“All parties have agreed that no further media engagements regarding this matter will take place after this media statement, to allow all investigations to conclude. New information will be communicated when the outcomes of the forensic investigation are available,” said Mamabolo.

Intellimali was still not able to explain how the error occurred. Chief Executive Officer Michael Ansell said the process of allocating funds to students goes through various stages before it gets to the students.

“When IntelliMali receives an upload via email, the allowances are checked by the relevant uploads team who are dedicated to this task within the company. Once all the checks have been completed, the allowances are uploaded by a separate team in the finance department.

“These allowances are in the form of a ‘credit’ and no money is deposited into a bank account or given to a student in the form of cash. The allowance is only made available within our ‘closed-loop’ system environment,” he said.

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