AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
SIU awaits presidential proclamation to investigate National Skills Fund and missing R5bn
The Special Investigating Unit has told Parliament it has drawn up papers requesting a proclamation that would allow the unit to investigate the National Skills Fund, where R5-billion went missing.
The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is waiting for a presidential go-ahead to investigate potential issues of malpractice and maladministration at the National Skills Fund (NSF).
The SIU briefed Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on Tuesday about a planned investigation into the fund. In 2022, the fund made headlines when R5-billion “could not be properly accounted for over two financial years”, according to Blade Nzimande, the minister of higher education.
Read more in Daily Maverick: The National Skills Fund, the missing R5bn and Blade Nzimande’s request for confidentiality
The fund is used for education and training initiatives such as bursaries and scholarships, learner and skills programmes, and workplace-based learning; and is also aimed at improving the post-school, education and training system, with a focus on capacity building, investing in skills infrastructure, research and innovation.
“The Department [of Higher Education and Training] has referred a number of matters for investigation,” said the SIU head, Advocate Andy Mothibi.
The unit has drawn up a proclamation for the investigation and made its intention clear to the Department of Justice. Mothibi said a letter was sent to Justice Minister Ronald Lamola and director-general advocate Doctor Mashabane on 28 February to inform them the SIU was drawing up the proclamation.
At this stage, the Department of Justice needs to forward the proclamation to the Presidency, where it can be formally proclaimed and then gazetted before the SIU can start investigating.
Mothibi said the investigation would focus on maladministration and malpractice. He told the committee that he had “impressed” on the Department of Justice that the issue was urgent.
During the committee meeting, the Department of Higher Education and Training director-general Nkosinathi Sishi said they were cooperating with law enforcement agencies.
“We are working well with the police,” he said. In addition, there were eight officials linked to the NSF from colleges around SA that were named in the initial forensic report, who were seeking legal action over the report.
During the meeting, several MPs questioned the NSF over vacancies at the fund, an issue that was previously raised during a higher education meeting in March.
Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Very good developments’ at National Skills Fund after R5bn went missing
Sishi said the fund had advertised for the position of CEO and the appointment was in the process of being finalised. DM