Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology has expressed concerns over the delays in the procurement of the laptops for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) qualifying students.
Committee chairperson Philly Mapulane says it has been four months since Higher education minister Blade Nzimande announced that government will procure laptops for all NSFAS qualifying students in universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges.
The laptops form part of government’s remote learning strategy to save the 2020 academic year as a result of the country being placed under lockdown.
“Students have since being eagerly awaiting the delivery of these laptops which to date remain undelivered as a result of unnecessary delays in the finalisation of the procurement processes by NSFAS,” said Mapulane.
Mapulane said that allegations have since been brought to the committee that there is “interference” with the procurement processes around these laptops.
“Attempts are being made to manipulate the procurement process, and to finally get it aborted because certain service providers are not recommended following supply chain management processes of NSFAS,” he said.
Mapulane said that the committee takes these allegations seriously and will be following them up with the administrator of NSFAS, Dr Randall Carolisen.
“We would like to appeal to Dr Carolisen not to allow any undue interference with the supply chain management processes of NFSAS, and to speedily conclude this process of the procurement of the laptops so that students from poor and working-class families can be able study and be taught remotely.
“The country cannot afford another Covid-19 procurement scandal.”
The warning from parliament comes a day after president Cyril Ramaphosa published an open letter to the ruling ANC in which he warned that the party was central to recent Covid-19 corruption claims.
Ramaphosa said that recent reports and findings of corruption related to Covid-19 emergency aid is “an unforgivable betrayal to millions of South Africans”.
He said that the corruption involved private sector companies and individuals, including civil servants, but noted that the problem corruption is deeply rooted within the party and within the government.
The ANC has launched a party-wide investigation into corruption allegations, where all provincial branches and leaders are required to draw up lists of every person accused of, or facing charges of wrongdoing.
These lists must then be delivered to the office of party secretary-general, Ace Magashule, the City Press reported.
Despite the talk around coming down harder on corruption, there is a widespread belief that the government, and the ANC which governs within it, lacks any real will or capacity to actually deal with the issue, beyond superficial talk on the matter.