Committee Grills NSFAF Over Delayed Payments

THE chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Defence and Security, Paulus Kapia, last week demanded an explanation from the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) over the continued delays in disbursing loans to deserving students abroad.

The Fund has come under criticism from students studying in Namibia and abroad, as well as the Namibia National Students Organisation (Nanso), for continuously failing to disburse funds on time, plunging them into arrears with their respective institutions.

In a first-ever consultation meeting between the committee and NSFAF at parliament, Kapia said the long list of complaints and challenges facing Namibian students abroad had reached their desk, and that this was a thumbs down on NSFAF’s part.

Nanso regional council chairperson Dimbulukeni Nauyoma had earlier said NSFAF did not have a sufficient grip on handling student loans and questioned its operations.

The committee echoed Nauyoma’s sentiments suggesting that NSFAF come clean about the challenges causing the setbacks to get a solution urgently.

The meeting also comes after the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN) earlier in the year threatened not to register over 2 000 students, some of them NSFAF loan beneficiaries, as a result of outstanding fees from the previous year.

There are reports that Namibian students in foreign countries had been involved in vices like prostitution to raise money after NSFAF had delayed disbursing funds to them.

“We are not prosecuting or judging you, but we simply want to know what is going on so that we tackle these challenges collectively,” Kapia told NSFAF representatives at the meeting.

NSFAF’s head of secretariat Hilya Nghiwete told the committee that because the academic years of most foreign universities do not correspond with government’s financial year which only begins in May, it was sometimes a challenge to disburse loans on time.

She, however, noted that last year NSFAF devised an institutional calendar to improve the payment methods for students.

“Since educational institutions start in different months, the calendar will help us determine when certain funds are due and speed-up payment for all our beneficiaries,” she said.

She, however, also said the delays are sometimes a result of students submitting their proof of registration and academic results at the 11th hour.

“We have also started paying some students’ funds in aance like for those studying in Malaysia. The funds have been paid to the Namibian embassy in Malaysia that distributes the funds to the students quarterly,” she explained.

Among other challenges, Nghiwete also cited fraudulent activities by some students, especially those studying in South Africa, who claim funds when their loans have already been paid in. She said the Fund has instituted a robust verification mechanism to detect fraudulent activities.

NSFAF spokesperson Percy Tjahere told The Namibian that as for students studying in the country, the Fund had recently signed an agreement with institutions like the PoN to find ways to address tuition and other financial concerns affecting NSFAF loan beneficiaries.

Following the meeting, the committee agreed to put NSFAF’s grievances on its to-do-list by getting in touch with the relevant authorities and submitting a report of the meeting to parliament. The Fund revealed that it has funded more than 1 180 students abroad and 8 000 in local institutions last year.

Source : The Namibian