Relief for 14 million student Sibongile Mani?

The university student who spent R818 000 of the R14m which was mistakenly paid into her account should not carry the blame alone, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training said in a statement on Thursday.

Committee chairperson Connie September said that, between Intellimali, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), Walter Sisulu University (WSU) and the Department of Higher Education and Training, the entire payment system needed to be reviewed.

“The entities are all talking about the fact that there are loopholes in the system. You need to meet with the business community and inform them that they cannot be accessories to fraudulent activities,” said September in the statement.

On Wednesday, representatives of these institutions appeared in front of the committee.

None were able to say how the error was made.

Intellimali, which facilitates the payment of student allowances, said they had no idea how the R1 400 had ballooned to R14.1m.

NSFAS and WSU said their systems also did not indicate how this could have happened.

A forensic investigation is underway and Intellimali has laid a charge of theft with the police.

The committee heard on Wednesday from Intellimali CEO Michael Ansell that one of the merchants had disappeared, and at least two others were being sought.

The merchants are the supermarkets and other shops where the students can swipe their Intellimali cards to buy limited items, such as books and food.

The committee heard that collusion at merchant or vendor level could not be ruled out.

The payments are loans that the students are ultimately responsible for when they start work.

The university has indicated that the student will have to pay off the money she spent as a loan.

September said in Thursday’s statement that the committee was concerned about what appeared to be a gross abuse of the system.

NSFAS, Intellimali and WSU have indicated that they will not be commenting anymore until the investigation is completed.

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