NEWS & ANALYSIS

Extension of Carolissen’s term at NSFAS questionable – SASCO & NEHAWU

Unions say decision by Minister Nzimande undermines key stakeholders at scheme

Joint SASCO-NEHAWU statement on the extension of the term of Dr Randall as the administrator at NSFAS by Minister Dr Blade Nzimande

21 August 2020

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] and the South African Students Congress [SASCO] notes with disgust and great disappointment the extension of the term of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme [NSFAS] Administrator, Dr Randall Carolissen, by Minister Blade Nzimande.

As majority representatives of major stakeholders in the post schooling and training sector we view this decision as yet another attempt to undermine the poor and working class of our country by Minister Nzimande.

To us, the extension of the term of Dr Carolissen is an extension of term of the tenure of undermining key stakeholders at NSFAS, poor organisational performance and lack of strategic leadership capable of driving the objectives set by the institution as expressed in the annual performance plan, demonstrated by his inability to provide conducive working environment and students needs timeously. These failures are attributed to his poor managerial skills albeit his false narrative that he has turned NSFAS around.  

The failure to respond to applications for grants, student loans and allowances has led to the instability of the higher education sector must be attributed to Dr Randall failures at the helm of NSFAS. The recent failures to deliver on promised gadgets and data to students is but another huge failure by NSFAS.

On top of it all, as the working class orientated organisations, we are disgusted by the defunding of 5000 students amidst COVID-19 and restrictions of movement which have brought strenuous life to the poorest of the poor and at the time when the country is faced with serious economic challenges, rising unemployment, rising in anxieties about the 2020 academic year and the widening inequalities in the post schooling sector and the South African society in general.

Under Dr Carolissen we have witnessed the collapse of bargaining structures, dismissal of senior managers and about 89 workers at NSFAS including the IT manager, outsourcing of critical services and mysterious appointment of some staff members whom are former service providers to the institution. As a majority union in the institution and a biggest union in the public service together with the biggest student movement in the country, we remain opposed to outsourcing of services and the extension of the term of the current Administrator at NSFAS.

NEHAWU has been at the forefront of highlighting the corruption and the collapse of governance that has characterised NSFAS for the past couple of years which resulted into the dissolution of the Board and the removal of the then CEO. NEHAWU and SASCO advocated and supported the appointment of the Administrator at NSFAS by Minister Naledi Pandor on the 21st August 2018 to take over the governance, management and administration of the entity for a period of a year in terms of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme Act [56 of 1999, as amended] which stipulates that in [2][a] “The Minister appoints an administrator for such a period as may be determined by the Minister but such period may not exceed two years and [2][b] the Minister may extend the period contemplated in paragraph [a] once for a period not exceeding six months”.

When Minister Nzimande took over he extended the period of the administrator to consolidate the work done by the entity and to ensure that an effective transition can be put in place towards a new executive management team and a Board including a review of NSFAS business processes to be completed to provide an advice to the Minister on the future development of the entity. On those basis, the Minister extended the contract for another period of a year which ended on the 20th August 2020.

To our dismay, the contract of the administrator has been extended for the second time from the 21st August 20202 to 31st December 2020 despite what the Act stipulates and the failures of the Administrator to meet deliverables as outlined in the terms of reference for the appointment of the Administrator at NSFAS in both periods of his appointment.

At worst Minister Nzimande never consulted us as it was the case under Minister Pandor and as if there was never a meeting between the national union, the Minister and the same Administrator on the 20th August 2019 where NEHAWU raised serious concerns about the performance and conduct of the Administrator when the Minister extended the contract for the first time. It is important to mention that the Minister when persuading NEHAWU to accept the extension for the second term he promised us that no extension shall be considered for the current Administrator as the Act is not permitting for such which is contrary to what is happening now. 

This time around, NEHAWU and SASCO, will not to allow the Minister to do as he pleases as if NSFAS is his spaza shop. We reject the extension of the contract and unfortunately, the Minister shall meet the mighty of these giant organisations of workers and students as they have a history and capacity to fight for the interests of their constituencies and the working class as a whole.

NEHAWU and SASCO are contemplating to venture into a real fight of mobilising their members and also a legal fight which will run parallel against this dishonesty and betrayal by the Minister particularly when he is not prepared or willing to rescind his signature from the letter extending the contract of the administrator at NSFAS.

This institution still remains in disarray with no prospect of turning the corner and continues to be plagued by allegations of corruption, absence of policies and systems which has led to exorbitant irregular expenditure across.

We find it unacceptable that the Minister did not consult us as important stakeholders for the institutional development at the entity which can attest to how wrong this decision is as. We have experienced union bashing and victimisation of shop stewards and members who have been vocal about the reign of terror of Dr Carolissen at NSFAS.

We call on the Minister of higher education and training, science and technology to reverse his decision to extend the term of the NSFAS Administrator and speedily appoint a board that has proven track record of activism, pro-poor and working class, which will progressively fund South African students and build stability within this institution.

We are of the firm view that this institution can contribute to the realization of the idea for free quality education if is not disturbed.

Issued by Kaya Xaba, on behalf of NEHAWU and SASCO, 21 August 2020