South Africa

Procurement of laptops for NSFAS university students now raising questions

Cape Town - Parliament’s portfolio committee on higher education, science and technology has questioned whether the procurement of laptops by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) was still necessary.

The committee said it was clear that the delays in procuring the laptops for the needy have led to a situation where it was no longer necessary for it to proceed with the processes as originally envisaged.

Committee chairperson Philly Mapulane said in April that Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande announced that the government would provide all NSFAS qualifying students with laptops to assist in remote learning and teaching methodologies as part of the department’s response to the lockdown.

Mapulane said it was six months since the announcement was made and university and TVET NSFAS students remained without laptops.

He said Nzimande informed them on Friday that according to information received from the NSFAS administrator, Dr Randall Carolissen, the procurement process to acquire those laptops would be concluded before the end of October.

National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) spokesperson Khaya Xaba said universities had already initiated their own procurement of laptops for their students.

“The department informed the committee that all current TVET college students will not be provided with laptops for the 2020 academic year because the majority of the students are about to finish the year, and therefore it will not serve any purpose to provide them with laptops as they will be exiting the system,” Mapulane said.

“The question is: why is NSFAS proceeding with the acquisition of these laptops where only 32% of the universities’ student population requires this intervention and no student in TVETS will be supplied during the current academic year?”

He said they would have a follow-up meeting with Caro, and Nehawu to discuss all allegations brought to the committee’s attention.

Carolissen said NSFAS was proceeding with the tender process and the project itself. “It was to be noted that the sole purpose of this project is/was to provide access to digital remote learning for students to ensure that no student was left behind in the 2020 academic year.”

Carolissen said that by fulfilling that mandate they would have achieved the desired outcomes and implementation goals. “A tender to supply and deliver laptops to students was re-advertised on September 4 and closed on September 21. By the closing date, a total of 140 bid proposals had been received.”

He said NSFAS was evaluating the bid proposals, with the awarding of the tender estimated to be completed by Saturday.

Once service providers have been appointed, the laptops would be delivered directly to the student.

Cape Argus

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