Ricochet News

Walter Sisulu University student faces 'fraud probe' for blowing R818 000 from NSFAS

Aug 30, 2017
Walter Sisulu University student faces 'fraud probe' for blowing R818 000 from NSFAS

IntelliMali, the company that made an erroneous R14 million payment from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) into a meal account belonging to a female student at Walter Sisulu University in East London, from which she allegedly squandered over R818 000 over a period of five months, on Wednesday said that while it takes responsibility for the error, it will now be pursuing legal action to recover the money from the student.

"In June 2017, a student at Walter Sisulu University (WSU) East London received an over allocation of her monthly food allowance.

"While all other students received their usual monthly allocation of R1,400; she received in error an allocation of R14.1 million," explained CEO, Michael Ansell.

"The student, whose name is known to Intellimali, did not report the oversight but chose rather to access the funds. When the error was discovered in early August 2017, she had misappropriated R818,000.

"During the period in question, Intellimali was managing the monthly food allowance of R1,400 for thousands of students at Walter Sisulu University."

Ansell said that only one student received the incorrect funding.

"Regardless of the outcome of the investigation referred to later, Intellimali takes full administrative and financial responsibility for the incident.

"Neither the funder, National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) nor the Walter Sisulu University have erred in any way and they are not responsible for this," he added.

"In addition, no student’s financial aid support will be affected in any way. We have already put in place the necessary controls to prevent an incident of this nature ever happening again. IntelliMali loads tens of millions of rands in allowances for students receiving financial aid from donors every day."

Ansell said that these allowances are loaded in categories for books and food.

"Over the past 10 years, IntelliMali has loaded and managed in excess of R5 billion in allowances. Nothing like this has ever occurred before at Intellimali. In June 2017 IntelliMali received a batch of food allowances from Walter Sisulu University.

"This batch contained a list of 3 500 students, each with an allocation of R1,400. These uploads are checked and verified by IntelliMali staff before they are processed on the IntelliMali system and all the data was correct at the time the uploads took place," he described.

"Only one of thousands of students received this allowance in error. As is our standard practice, Intellimali deactivated that students allowance and notified the university that we would investigate the matter.

"In this case, the investigation proved to be complex, highly technical and time consuming. It required the attention of both internal professionals and external experts."

Ansell said that IntelliMali has appointed a forensic auditor to investigate this "incident", which can only be described as ‘unprecedented’ in our 10-year history.

"The investigation is ongoing and legal action will be taken against the student. Intellimali is currently in talks with NSFAS and the Walter Sisulu University to determine the most appropriate action to be taken."

Many on social media came out in defence of the Walter Sisulu University student.

On Wednesday, NSFAS came maintained that it never paid R14 million to a student. The story has been trending on Twitter.

Prominent TV Personality and Award-Winning Radio broadcaster, Masechaba Ndlovu, Tweeted; "NFSAS does not have the right to ask this girl to pay back the R400, 000 she spent, when they didn't even realise R14 MILLION was missing."

Other Tweeter users have also been asking why it took the Walter Sisulu University and NSFAS five months to discover the error - which was discovered only because the woman or someone posted the receipt on social media.

"NSFAS paid Walter Sisulu University the total budget for it to disburse allowances to its own NSFAS funded students," the scheme said in a statement.

"The university does this using its own processes, systems and service providers, without the involvement of NSFAS. When a mistake occurs in these processes, it is in the hands of the university and the university will apply necessary corrective measures.

"NSFAS is not involved, except to get an official report from the university detailing what happened. NSFAS has made a request to the university for such a report."

A receipt from a grocery store showing a balance on a Walter Sisulu University student's account of more than R13 million. Picture: Supplied.