SIU and Hawks to determine if former NSFAS board chairperson received kickbacks

Former board chairperson of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), Ernest Khosa. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/Archives

Former board chairperson of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), Ernest Khosa. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/Archives

Published May 11, 2024


Cape Town - The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) said law enforcement agencies must investigate allegations that the former board chairperson of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), Ernest Khosa, received bribes, despite an investigative report by NSFAS finding the claims to be “fictitious and ridiculous”.

Outa investigations manager, Rudie Heyneke, said law enforcement agencies would be able to investigate the credibility of their claims.

NSFAS recently revealed the contents of a report by advocate William Mokhare SC, briefed by TGR Attorneys, on Outa’s allegations which are based on leaked voice recordings of meetings between Khosa and two individuals linked to Coinvest, a service provider contracted by NSFAS.

The report found no evidence to substantiate the allegations by Outa that Khosa received money from the service provider(s) or person(s) linked to the service providers.

The 106-page report focused on the two audio recordings of two meetings between Khosa, Thula Ntumba and Joshua Maluleke. They were secretly recorded by Ntumba, husband of Tshegofatso Ntumba, one of two Coinvest directors. Coinvest is one of four service providers appointed for the disbursement of student funding.

Khosa was unaware the meeting was being recorded. The recordings were then given to Outa by a whistleblower in October 2023. Outa then released its report and made the recordings available through its website.

In its report, Outa claimed Khosa and Nzimande received kickbacks from the service providers and recommended the two should resign with immediate effect.

The report stated that Werkmans Attorneys were appointed by the NSFAS board to investigate allegations against former NSFAS CEO Andile Nongongo, over alleged irregular awarding of the direct payment system tender to four service providers in 2022.

In the audio recordings, Khosa is heard asking for a legal firm, with Werkmans suggested to him by the two and stating that they knew the partners, implying that the partner could be managed/influenced.

“Ntumba played no role in the appointment of Werkmans and knew no partner or director whom he could unduly influence to doctor the report and skew the outcome,” read the Mokhare report.

The report found a decision to appoint Werksmans had already been made by the time Khosa met Ntumba and Maluleke on the evening of August 15, 2023, and the appointment was formalised in a letter dated August 18.

The report said the two attempted to unduly influence Khosa to interfere in the Werkmans investigation.

“Instead, the Werkmans report made damning findings against the CEO.”

Werkmans recommended that Nongongo be dismissed and that the four contracts be terminated.

The Mokhare report stated that no evidence was found to substantiate the allegations that Khosa breached his duties as non-executive director and chairperson of the board, and that there was no evidence to substantiate the allegations that Khosa received money from the service provider(s) or persons linked to the service provider(s) of NSFAS.

“Although from the recordings Khosa did not discuss confidential board matters with Ntumba and Maluleke, it was an error of judgement for him to have allowed a discussion involving the board and board decisions to take place with them, and for him to participate in such discussions.”

Heyneke said Mokhare had found that the recordings and transcription were authentic and that the only thing that mattered then would be the contents of the discussions.

“The allegations that we made in those recordings, for example that the chairperson got gratification or money from service providers, we did not prove that, but we were not out to prove anything. We were out to tell the public and to show the public this (sic) is the recordings that we have and this is what was said.

“As advocate Mokhare also alluded to in his report that they don’t have the power to subpoena witnesses or documents, bank statements, cellphone records and stuff like that – Outa is sitting in exactly the same situation (sic). We don’t have those powers, those powers are with the law enforcement agencies.”

Heyneke said all evidence has been submitted to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and that the investigations were moving forward.

“So I trust and I do believe that this matter will not be swept under the carpet and get the attention that it deserves.”

Weekend Argus