NSFAS' two centres of power
National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) chief executive officer (CEO) Steven Zwane’s job is on the line following the appointment of Randall Carollissen as the scheme’s administrator.
The former SA Revenue Service (Sars) group executive for revenue planning, analysis and reporting takes over all governance, management and administrative duties previously performed by the CEO.
On Friday Zwane said he was in the dark about his future, given that all his duties had been handed to the administrator, yet he remains CEO.
“I really don’t know at this point. The minister [Naledi Pandor] is yet to inform me on the way forward. I was not present at the meeting where the administrator’s appointment was communicated to the board, but she [the minister] did write to me and I welcome his appointment and see it as a positive move to address the challenges of the scheme,” said Zwane.
“In terms of my stay and what work I will do given the new appointment and the stipulated duties from the minister’s statement, I don’t know how to respond. For now all I can say is it is what it is … I mean … how do you move forward?” he said.
“This looks like an attempt to push me out but if that were the case, due processes would need to be followed and I can’t pre-empt that process. I just see myself as being a victim of a process and different times … things are unfolding and you ask yourself what the motive of the department is and the timing really isn’t right, given the work we are tasked with doing.”
Responding on the future of Zwane, Lunga Ngqengelele, the spokesperson for the minister of education and training said the CEO’s future would be decided by the administrator.
“He [the CEO] is still an employee of Nsfas and is bound by his contract, as such would still remain, with or without the board. But in this case, he now will have to report to the administrator as the law dictates.
“When the administrator comes in he will decide what he requires to fulfil his mandate. Remember that he will be coming with experts. The minister has nothing to do with the CEO [Zwane] at all.
“The minister holds the board, which has been replaced by the administrator, accountable. Zwane remains an employee of Nsfas because he was appointed by the board,” said Ngqengelele.
Last week Minister of Higher Education Naledi Pandor appointed deputy vice-chancellor of the Central University of Technology, Professor Neil Garrod, as the chairperson of the board, following Sizwe Nxasana’s resignation.
Garrod will continue as chair until the administrator begins his term next week which will see the board he joined a week ago dissolve.
Some of the duties of the administrator will be to ensure the effective closeout of the previous and current year’s funding decisions and disbursements, as well as to finalise plans for next year’s funding cycle.
These are the same objectives with which Zwane was tasked.
Furthermore, the minister expects the administrator to work with universities and technical and vocational education and training colleges in the next few weeks to make sure that student funding for next year proceeds smoothly.
Zwane was adamant he would continue with his duties as stipulated in his contract.
He said it was “business as usual up until a point where the minister directs otherwise”.
“I am employed by the board. My appointment was concurred by the minister of finance and the minister of higher education and training.
“It was an audited process by the auditor-general and I went through interviews and the like, and it was also a resolution of the board that I am a successful and suitable candidate.”
Zwane said most of the blame that was directed at him was for problems he found at the scheme, issues which he says were there for years.
“I am less than a year in the job. I found Nsfas chronically understaffed and the systems were also not properly used.
“Even in previous academic years it has failed to deliver what was expected of it.
“Since my arrival I have been hard at work and have been trying to fix the failures of the past two years, and planning for this year’s and next year’s academic year. We are ready to open new applications and to try to close off last year’s and this year’s outstanding issues.”
He believed there was a third force calling for his removal but said he was unsure what the motive and goal was.
Last month National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union called for a motion of no confidence in him and Nxasana. In fact, the union gave him five days to vacate office.
“I’m here trying to do my job and it’s something I am passionate about. I too am a former Nsfas beneficiary and I understand what the scheme does for the future of its beneficiaries.”