Claims, revelations and denials as war of words erupts in Higher Education

Claims, revelations and denials as war of words erupts in Higher Education

Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande has vehemently dismissed claims of abuse of power by suspended Director-General, Gwebinkundla Qonde.

Blade Nzimande

This follows revelations and allegations of financial mismanagement in the department by Qonde.

The claims were revealed by the City Press, in which Qonde detailed how Nzimande allegedly set up a ministerial task team specifically for the procurement of laptops for National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) beneficiaries.

He further alleged that Nzimande wanted to work him out of the department since 2019.

However, the department has now hit back – saying Qonde has been suspended over auditing related matters.

“The decision to place DG Qonde under precautionary suspension emanates from an adverse audit report by the Auditor-General’s of South Africa (AGSA). The AGSA found that much of a total amount of just under R5 billion could not be properly accounted for over two financial years by the National Skills Fund (NSF).

These are indeed huge sums of money that the AGSA found they could not have been properly accounted for. The DG of the DHET, by virtue of this position, is also the Accounting Authority of the NSF. He therefore has the responsibility for all the funds and their expenditure,” said the department in a statement.

“Whilst DG Qonde has not as yet been found guilty, a precautionary suspension is necessary so that a comprehensive forensic investigation into the NSF can be done. The need for such an investigation has also been called for by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA),” 

The department accuses the media of completely ignoring the ‘very serious’ audit findings.

“It seems the media thus far has been reporting without even bothering to engage with the AG findings and their implications.

Media reportage thus far has also not even bothered to study the Standing Committee on public Accounts (SCOPA) hearings, findings and recommendations on the same matter.

On the other hand, during the National Skills Fund 2019/20 audit disclaimer hearing held on the 18 May 2021, the Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) said that the Committee is wholly unsatisfied with the responses provided.”


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