Months of a strained relationship between the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) management and its board has resulted in President Hage Geingob intervening and deciding that the Fund return to the higher education ministry.
The institution has been marred by a tainted relationship between its CEO Hilya Nghiwete and board chairperson Patty Karuaihe-Martin.
The two do not see eye to eye and Nghiwete even went as far as reporting the matter to higher education minister, Dr Itah Kandjii-Murangi.
The bid to control the Fund seems to be the main factor behind the tensions between the board chair and CEO.
Kandjii-Murangi, who yesterday joined President Geingob during the end-of-year review media conference, revealed that the head of state had intervened and taken the bold decision to cease the Fund being a state-owned enterprise (SOE) and that it should return to the education ministry as a directorate.
This decision comes a few days after the chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Mike Kavekotora, proposed that the custodian ministry takes over the management of NSFAF and places it under a separate management and board, in order not to further disadvantage students.
He accused the current board of mismanagement, negligence and corruption.
“Comrade President, in your own wisdom, you made it clear that NSFAF will come back as a directorate within the ministry of higher education. We are ready come 2018 – we have everything to ensure there is efficiency and proper transparency,” Kandji-Murangi revealed during a televised event yesterday.
NSFAF provides financial assistance by way of loans to needy full-time Namibian students enrolled at a recognised higher education institution.
According to the latest audit report, NSFAF failed to account for more than N$2.7 billion between 2009 and 2010.
When asked what prompted the government to take the latest decision, the minister said that since its establishment, there have been good developments and progress.
However, she said, there were also challenges that called for introspection.
“As someone who is overseeing NSFAF, there was a need for investigation and introspection, and I believe it came out that it’s better that it reverts back to the ministry,” she noted, without going into detail.
Regarding employees’ fate, she said a proper assessment would be done to iron out crucial issues such as salaries, saying once fully integrated back to the ministry, salaries would be similar to those offered to any civil servant.
NSFAF is a loan scheme that was designed to replace the public service bursary scheme whose purpose was to train people to work solely in the civil service.
Soon after independence, the demand for new recruits in the public service increased significantly following the integration of the various ethnic-based administrations.
Hence, the public service bursary scheme, that was in place before the student loans scheme, lost its relevance.
In the meantime, the demand for financial assistance by students was ever on the increase.
Cabinet therefore decided to replace the bursary scheme with NSFAF, which could allow the government to continue addressing the human resources need of the country in general – and beyond the needs and requirements of only the public service.
This new scheme, NSFAF, was approved in 1996 and was implemented during January 1997.
Ultimately, the Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund Act, 2000 (Act No. 26 of 2000) came into being.
•••• Pic: Hilya Nghiwete