Student funding chief suspended....March 16, 2011
The National Students Financial Aid Scheme, which limps from one crisis to another, had its CEO suspended just over a year after he took office.It emerged in Parliament yesterday, during a briefing by the Department of Higher Education and Training on progress made in implementing recommendations of a ministerial review of the financial aid scheme, that CEO Ashley Seymour was quietly placed on suspension several weeks ago.
Kirti Menon, acting deputy director-general responsible for universities in the department, told MPs that Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande suspended Seymour after his instructions to restructure the loan book of the financial aid scheme - part of the recommendation of the ministerial review - were ignored.
"Part of the reason for the suspension relates to the processes prior and the processes after the disclaimer, which were not sufficiently and efficiently conducted with the required rigour or application that we would expect for a public entity," she said.
Menon said Nzimande requested that the scheme's management and board move urgently to implement recommendations of the ministerial review committee with regard to the loan book, but this did not happen.
"This was a task that the minister asked should be given top priority and a report provided to him timeously.
"The work undertaken by the organisation in order to review the loan book was not satisfactory and this partially resulted in a disclaimer being given by the auditor-general.
"A disclaimer is something that no organisation wishes to have, and if you have one you are definitely in for sleepless nights," she said.
The ministerial review panel recommended that the financial aid scheme come up with new policies and guidelines on calculating interest on student loans, how it is accrued, how the value of the loan book is estimated and accounting principles used.
Seymour, a chartered accountant, joined the scheme in February last year to turn it around after an uproar over unspent funds resulted in the previous CEO leaving.
Several board members have since resigned. The department hopes to fill eight board vacancies by the end of next month.
The scheme, which funds higher education studies for needy students, took flak when it was discovered that it was returning millions in unspent funds while students were being turned away by education institutions for lack of funds.
Now there is a surprise.
Another grand government scheme where the money has disappeared.
Wonder how that happened?