Blade should do South Africa a favour and resign after R2.5 billion NSF scandal

Issued by Chantel King MP – DA Shadow Minister of Higher Education
27 Oct 2022 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Chantel King MP.

The DA calls on the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, to do the Post School Education and Training (PSET) sector a favour and resign. South Africa deserves a competent Minister.

This after the Nexus forensic report regarding the National Skills Fund’s (NSF) R2.5 billion unverified skills development expenditure was finally presented to the parliamentary portfolio committee on higher education.

Minister Nzimande knew from previous audit reports by the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) that the NSF had received disclaimers and yet he and his Department did absolutely nothing until the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) forced him to investigate this massive irregular expenditure.

The 10 NSF-funded projects Nexus investigated, appears to be just the tip of the iceberg.

The forensic report highlighted:

  • Bank accounts were opened by service providers as a front – once the NSF funds were received it was immediately transferred to another bank account;
  • The NSF were unable to account for or verify third party expenditure due to incomplete documents and unrelated invoices not aligning with intended projects;
  • NSF officials failing to implement and follow checks and balance procedures;
  • Lack of accountability and consequence management; and
  • Conflict of interest – cross-pollination of companies and directors being established to do business with each other.

It was the NSF’s ineptitude and lack of project and consequence management that a toxic system of fraud and corruption to flourish.

While the DA welcomes further investigations by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks), the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the State Attorney, Minister Nzimande had the option to request an SIU investigation from the very beginning, but chose to pay for a private investigation. This has now led to double expenditure on the same investigation.

The DA is also concerned about the slow progress to change legislation to allow for a NSF board to be considered, which places the current director-general (DG) Dr Nkosinathi Sishi in the predicament of being referee and player as he is the accounting officer of the NSF.

It is clear that a central avenue for funding students must be created to administer all State funding for knowledge generation, training and skills development to ensure that that all applicants receive a fair bite of the apple and some do not unduly benefit by double dipping.

Everyone responsible for the gross mismanagement of the NSF and the wasteful expenditure of this R2.5 billion must be held accountable. The DA will be keeping a close eye to ensure this happens.