"When you put in the time, you will uncover the crime" is a mantra that continues to hold true for the OUTA team. This is clearly demonstrated by the current investigation into the NSFAS CEO, Andile Nongogo. In a startling series of discoveries since 2018, OUTA’s investigative team uncovered a web of dubious deals at NSFAS and Services SETA, two entities operating under the Department of Higher Education and Training. At the centre of it all, albeit at different points in time, was Andile Nongogo. Our investigations and continued pressure, combined with pressure from student activists, finally forced the NSFAS board to start investigating Nongogo. 

In November 2018, OUTA's investigations uncovered a contract valued at R163 million between the Services SETA and Grayson Reed, a company using an unregistered name all the while billing the SSETA exorbitant sums for dubious services. In September 2019, the Services SETA finally ended that contract six months early, but failed to reclaim any of the money spent on it. When some of the same names from the Grayson Reed tender cropped up in a new round of tenders at NSFAS, our investigations team smelled a rat and decided to have a fresh look at what’s happening at both entities.

Through the meticulous examination of tenders, contracts, and financial allocations, the investigative team uncovered a series of disconcerting irregularities at both SSETA and NSFAS. 

Of utmost concern were the alleged irregularities in the awarding of bids and the management of student funds. The investigations illuminated a disconcerting pattern in the allocation and management of funds meant to help young South Africans who can’t afford tertiary education. One name cropped up at both institutions: Andile Nongogo. 

OUTA started exposing the irregularities as early as September 2022. In October 2022 our request for further information from NSFAS via an application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) was turned down by NSFAS. Our investigation continued and we published our report in February 2023, which showed that the four companies who won the tenders to implement the new direct payment system were ill-equipped for the task and were not registered as financial service providers. Two of the service providers were not registered as VAT vendors. One service provider had links with dubious tenders awarded by the Services SETA during Nongogo’s tenure as CEO there, which OUTA had previously exposed.

Despite our concerns, which were communicated to NSFAS, NSFAS still implemented the new direct payment system on 30 June 2023. This decision negatively affected the payments of NSFAS allowances to thousands of students. Despite students’ pleas, backed up by OUTA’s investigations and new revelations linking Nongogo to irregular tenders at SSETA, NSFAS and the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, chose to ignore the situation.

OUTA believes a thorough independent investigation needs to take place and we call for swift disciplinary and other action against Nongogo. 

NSFAS is currently being investigated by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and we shared our investigation reports with the unit. The office of the Public Protector launched an investigation into the direct payment system, following a complaint laid by William Sezoe, vice-chairperson of the Stellenbosch University SRC. ActionSA has also announced that it will institute legal action to review and set aside the tender for the payment of allowances by NSFAS’ service providers.

Furthermore, OUTA reported Nongogo’s conduct to the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) and laid a criminal complaint with the SAPS against him relating to a tender at the Services SETA (see our next story). We will not relent on this shameless mismanagement of public funds.  

Read more about OUTA’s fight to rid the Higher Education-sector of corruption here.