Beneficiaries of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), who are now working, are being urged to come forward and make arrangements to repay their loans.
In an interview with the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) Radio Unit, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) spokesperson, Khaye Nkwanyana, said government is currently owed more than R6 billion by former beneficiaries.
“This is money that should be going back to NSFAS to assist other students … from poor backgrounds, who should be assisted in the same way as those beneficiaries who are now employed,” said Nkwanyana.
The department is working with the South African Revenue Service (SARS) to get the data of all those who owe NSFAS in order to get them to make repayments.
“We are getting quite a number of names of those employed both in government and the private sector. We have engaged with provincial governments to assist us because many of them are working for government. We are going to trace them to ensure that they make arrangements with NSFAS in terms of repayment.
“We are embarking on this campaign because we want to ensure that we maximise the money that we have in NSFAS to assist others. We are working on 400 000 defaulters who haven’t paid and we will start sending SMSs to them. We will start communicating to them through their employers,” said Nkwanyana.
Nkwanyana discouraged those who simply refuse to pay back.
“The advantage of coming forward yourself is that you can negotiate the settlement terms… until you finish your debt. What government cannot accept is people who are not going to pay back because this was a loan, not a bursary scheme,” Nkwanyana said.
Meanwhile, NSFAS spokesperson Kagisho Mamabolo has welcomed the amendment of the Tax Administration Act, 2011 by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, which will ensure that NSFAS is now included in the list of statutory bodies that can request SARS to furnish them with contact details of identified tax payers.
However, Mamabolo explained that SARS is not going after people who owe NSFAS and will not be involved in people’s debt to NSFAS.
“What this amendment means is that if a NSFAS debtor is employed but fails to inform us or pay their loan, we can request SARS to give us their contact details, employer’s name, and other relevant information. That is where SARS’ involvement starts and ends. We as NSFAS will then make contact with our debtors,” Mamabolo said.