Nasfaf Law Amendment Raises Questions

THE proposed amendment to the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund Bill has been postponed to tomorrow after questions were raised regarding some of the changes.

Minister of Education David Namwandi, who read the Bill in parliament on Tuesday, said the amended Act would allow the fund to have more than one banking account to be expanded to include vocational training students and for the board to increase from five to seven members.

Namwandi said the Ministry of Finance will be given the responsibility to assist the fund during the recovery process of which the repayment rate starts at 2% for the lowest paid, to 8% of the highest paid students when they eventually get employed.

This is in accordance with the Income Contingent Loans (ICL), which will ensure that the collection of the debt is contingent on the borrower’s income.

The amendments also propose that the Fund is no longer restricted to have its books audited only by the Auditor General but that the Fund can hire its own private auditors to look into their accounts.

The board will have the governance rule to validate decisions regarding financial resources, granting repayment and controlling the administrative work. Namwandi said the board will be assisted by three committees such as the awarding committee, the repayment committee and the postgraduate studies and students abroad committee.

“Main stakeholders such as the Namibia National Student Organisation should serve permanently on the appointed committees,” said Namwandi.

Additionally, Namwandi said, the approval and accreditation of institutions of higher learning will be extended to foreign institutions as well.

Namwandi stated that the Fund must be treated like any other state-owned-enterprise, so as to allow it to expand and make provisions to also appoint an executive officer as well as the establishment of a secretariat.

NASFAF, which has been in operation since 1997, assists students from impoverished backgrounds who qualify for higher learning but have no means to finance the studies.

The current Act of 2000 allows the fund to provide financial assistance to students enroled at tertiary institutions in the form of a loan or a grant. The fund is empowered to recover that money once the students have secured permanent employment.

The number of beneficiaries has risen from 1 400 a year at inception to 5 500 and a up to N$224 million has been paid out in loans and grants to students a year.

Namwandi said the fund has since 2000 assisted over 40 000 students and the budget allocation has increased from N$621 million last year to N$836 million for this year.

According to Namwandi, the fund has experienced challenges such as low recovery, low sustainability of funds and a poor reputation.

He said the operational side of the fund has also not been encouraging with lowly motivated staff and the lack of an accurate student database has worsened the matter.

“The bill is an urgent one in terms of Rule 98 of the Standing Rules and Orders. The main aim of this new policy is to address these critical challenges in order to build a sustainable and a reputable institution that contributes to the country’s development,” said Namwandi.

Several members of parliament gly opposed the proposal that the Auditor General should no longer be allowed to audit the Fund’s finances.

SWANU member of parliament Usutuaije Maamberua said: “There are missing details and a lack of transparency in the appointment of board members and in what the ICL will be measured against. How will one establish which is the lowest salary or the highest for the deductions?”

Arnold Tjihuiko of Nudo said it would be reckless to implement the bill without enough time being given for a review.

“This shows us that the ruling party does not have the well-being of the young people at heart. A chance must be given for the bill to be carefully looked at as it is dealing with our young people, ” said Tjihuiko.

Source : The Namibian