The lack of leadership coupled with dismal administrative systems at the Namibian Student Financial Aid Fund (NSFAF) over the years are to blame for the crisis that has gripped the institution in recent times, says the fund’s board chairman.
Jerome Mutumba, chairperson of the NSFAF board, said the cause of the crisis at the funding body “lies squarely with its leaders over the years”.
Speaking to The Patriot this week, Mutumba said he believed that this lack of leadership over the years had created chaos which subsequently presented fertile ground for maladministration to prosper.
“The administrative chaos that prevailed in the past was a result of hiccups on the part of those in charge. Because the company has some good employees, but without proper leadership those employees cannot do much. So we lay the blame for what is happening in NSFAF clearly in the hands of the leaders who deliberately created chaos so that they could do as they please,” said Mutumba who indicated that in order for the institution to thrive it needs robust systems accompanied by a culture of service delivery.
Mutumba said it is of no use for the management of the fund to continuously blame the system and policies guiding them because “those can be changed”.
“We must address the real issues plaguing the company because there is no reason for the board and management to fight each other,” he said.
Mutumba also expressed concern over the fund’s poor loan recovery record, which many believe is one of the core reasons that led to the current financial limbo the company finds itself in.
He also questions the absence of a proper database system at the fund.
“The fund has similar functions to what banks do, and in any bank your database is the most important tool. You cannot run an institution of this magnitude without a verifiable and accurate database, those were some of the problems facing NSFAF when we got here,” he lamented.
The Patriot understands former NSFAF CEO Hilya Nghiwete lost control over affairs at NSFAF after employees started approaching board members directly to air their complaints.
It appears that the instability at the top echelons of NSFAF has seemingly paralysed the organisation. The paralysis has allowed, if not fuelled, the lack of accountability.
As the skeletons tumble out of the NSFAF closet, it is difficult to neglect the role of the previous NSFAF board. The current board has been accused of shielding some of the senior officials instead of targeting the suspended CEO.
For instance, in the face of mounting evidence of failure to keep a proper database on loans awarded, the company fails to answer adequately.
Mutumba said he wants officials to account for every penny spent by NSFAF.
Mutumba narrated that when the current board was inaugurated in 2017, the NSFAF staffers were disgruntled and resorted to leaking classified information to the media.
“The situation has normalised compared to when we came in, apart from the recent demonstration of the student’s at our line ministry, NSFAF has managed to stay out of the media. I can vouch that the mood in the company has changed, productivity levels are up and employees are rejuvenated,” he said confidently.
At a stakeholders workshop held at NIPAM earlier this year, NSFAF revealed that it needs at least N$12 billion during the next five years to cater for the funding needs of all qualifying students at university and technical and vocational education (TVET) colleges.
According to NSFAF’s five-year projections, its funding needs will almost double from N$1.5 billion next year to N$2.9 billion in 2023. Student numbers on the other hand will jump from 48 547 in 2019 to 64 011 in 2023, this includes both continuing and new intakes.
These expenditure needs on higher education come at a time when the government is struggling to balance its books and has pushed its borrowings to what many see as unsustainable levels.
Although NSFAF needs the billions to assist over 100 000 financially needy students for the next five years, treasury is currently reluctant to avail funds to NSFAF because the funding body has no ‘Student Financial Assistance Policy’.
This has resulted in thousands of students studying locally in abroad being left stranded as their studies for 2018 have yet to be paid. At some stage NSFAF even informed students that it will only cater for tuition fees in 2018, while excluding non-tuition fees such as transport, meals and accommodation.
Some students have since been forced to abandon their studies, others have threatened to drag NSFAF to court for breach of contract.