At least N$148 million paid by the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund to local universities could not be verified, as there is no credible documentary evidence to support the payments.
The startling finding is contained in the fund’s audit report for the 2020/2021 financial year (FY).
The report, which was submitted to the National Assembly for scrutiny last week, was compiled by Junias Kandjeke, the auditor general (AG).
In it, Kandjeke gave the student fund an adverse audit opinion due to a barrage of financial ambiguities.
“The auditors observed that NSFAF made a total payment amounting to N$147 919 395 to local tertiary institutions, using Excel to settle student accounts,” Kandjeke said.
He continued: “Auditors could not ascertain the completeness and accuracy of the payments made to local tertiary institutions, as the student funding expenses are not supported by valid documentation”.
An adverse opinion is given when an entity’s financial statements are misrepresented, misstated and do not accurately reflect its financial standing.
NSFAF wrote off mobile devices, valued at N$9.7 million, without the board’s approval, an audit report shows.
He premised his findings on seven issues where the fund came short.
“The auditors observed that there was a manual write-down of inventories (mobile devices), amounting to N$9.7 million. This was calculated on N$354 for 28 000 devices. However, there was no directive, nor special resolution from the board to substantiate this write-off,” Kandjeke stated.
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, NSFAF introduced the N$180 million laptop initiative for students with mobile devices as support for higher education institutions and students to boost e-learning platforms, and to ensure that remote teaching takes place.
The amount later reduced sharply to N$59 million, following public outcry.
In addition, the auditors also picked up that NSFAF was paying two CEOs at the same time.
This followed the return of Hilya Nghiwete, who had been on a 22-month suspension.
Nghiwete was paid N$4 million while on suspension without rendering any services to the fund in any capacity.
Upon her return, Kennedy Kandume continued occupying the same position, meaning the two were collecting two salaries for one job. Additionally, NSFAF effected sloppy payments during the FY.
The fund paid N$70 000 into a single student’s account as non-tuition fees.
The money was supposed to go into 14 separate bank accounts, each student receiving N$5000 as non-tuition fees.
Instead, “The payments were made to the same bank account for the same student (ID) but different institutions during the same period.”
At the time of the audit, the NSFAF’s student loan book stood at N$5.3 billion.
The nominal balance, carrying the number of borrowers, including loan principal and interest, remains a mystery.
“Therefore, the loan book valuation could not be ascertained,” the AG stated.
Kandjeke also poked holes in the fund’s matured and unmatured loans.
“The fund did not separate the disclosure of student loans, totalling N$5.3 billion, between matured and unmatured loans,” he said.