The agency responsible for providing financial support to students is trying to claw back more than R1bn it has mistakenly paid out and needs to refund R26m to graduates who have been overcharged on their loans, according to a Business Day report.

It notes the figures, contained in the National Student Financial Aid Scheme’s (NSFAS’) 2018/2019 annual report tabled in Parliament this week, lay bare the organisation’s disarray when it was placed under administration in August 2018.

NSFAS’ long-running problems deepened late in 2017 when then President Jacob Zuma suddenly announced free higher education for qualifying students from poor and working-class families, leaving the organisation scrambling to deal with a surge in applications without additional resources.

NSFAS administrator Randall Carolissen, who was appointed for a second term in August, said yesterday that when he took the helm midway through the 2018/2019 financial year, he found a dysfunctional organisation that lacked proper systems for reconciling financial records and verifying the funds disbursed to students.

‘When I arrived in August (2018), there was a total absence of proper financial management and governance and an abandonment of policies and procedures. There was gross negligence and severe maladministration. That is as far as I can go right now because a forensic investigation is under way. There was definitely some form of syndicated fraud,’ he said.

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