NATIONAL NEWS - While there is a delay in the procurement of devices for students, proper administrative processes were followed, says Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande.
“Although the provision of devices is extremely urgent as part of the government’s response to COVID-19, a formal, transparent, competitive tender process was followed,” Nzimande said on Wednesday.
The Minister said this as he responded to complaints regarding the delays in procurement of laptops.
Nzimande said he had tasked the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), with the procurement process of the digital learning devices for NSFAS funded students currently registered at universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges.
He said the department adopted this route instead of an emergency tender process to avoid any deviation from the normal competitive procurement process.
“The reason for this was our serious concern that the process must be beyond reproach given recent experiences of reported corrupt practices experienced around COVID-19 procurement of personal protective equipment (PPEs).
“The Administrator of NSFAS informed me on Tuesday that none of the bids competing for the supply of learning devices as specified in the bid process, had achieved the mandatory requirements as required in the bid document. For this reason, no tender was awarded,” Nzimande explained.
While acknowledging that this is unfortunate and regrettable, in the sense that the procurement of learning devices will not take place right now, Nzimande insists that “the rules of good governance and due process must be followed to ensure a judicious outcome in the public interest.”
“Government policy is clear that our procurement process must promote an inclusive economy with diverse players, with specific priority given to credible broad-based black economic enterprises to ensure we that broaden the base of our economy,” Nzimande said.
Briefing the media on his department's response to South Africa’s move to lockdown alert level 2, Nzimande said he has instructed that all institutions falling under his two departments to publish a full list of all companies that have benefited from procurement initiated in response to COVID-19.
“Once a service provider has been appointed, the learning devices will be delivered directly to the student as per address provided on the acknowledgement of debt or request for digital learning device form,” Nzimande said.
NSFAS has issued guidelines to outline process to be followed to enable students to receive these laptops.
Over 89 000 NSFAS applications received
Meanwhile, NSFAS has received over 89 547 applications for 2021. The NSFAS 2021 application cycle opened on 3 August 2020 and will close on 30 November 2020.
“Given current extreme circumstance as a direct result of COVID-19, we are anticipating an influx of applications by the closing date of applications, with predictions of a higher number of applications compared to the previous years,” Nzimande said.
Legal action against fraudulent NSFAS students
In addition, Nzimande has warned that legal action will be taken against students, who attempted to defraud NSFAS by misrepresenting their financial status.
This follows the removal of 5 000 students from NSFAS list, who were incorrectly funded on the basis of providing incorrect information for the 2020 academic year, on the basis of in accurate information supplied in the original applications.
Nzimande said NSFAS has issued communique to all affected students notifying them of termination of their funding status, and the process to follow if they dispute the findings.
“The affected students will have 14 days from the date they received the SMS communication to petition this decision by submitting proof of family income or change of income to NSFAS for review. These documents need to be submitted to NSFAS via email at IncomeReview@nsfas.org.za,” Nzimande said. – SAnews.gov.za