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Jason Felix | 15 November 2022

Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande.

Darren Stewart/Gallo Images

Blade Nzimande denied that he attempted to conceal a forensic report regarding the National Skills Fund.

  • Nzimande appointed a firm to probe how R5 billion was not properly accounted for.

  • The fund provides money for skills development initiatives.

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said there was no attempt to seal a report regarding a forensic investigation into how R5 billion went missing at the National Skills Fund (NSF).

"The truth of the matter is that I made a request to Scopa [the Standing Committee on Public Accounts] to the effect that the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) should be given reasonable space to deal with all consequence management matters, due processes and recommendations arising from the forensic report, before publicly releasing the report," Nzimande said.

He was responding to a written parliamentary question from EFF MP Sinawo Tambo, who wanted details on attempts to seal the report.

Nzimande said the processes before releasing the report included informing and charging officials implicated and subjecting them to disciplinary procedures.

"[It also includes] approaching law enforcement agencies in cases where criminal conduct has been found, and appropriately dealing with implicated Skills Development Providers, including blacklisting and recouping of NSF funds. The DHET has started some of these processes, where certain NSF officials (five) have been placed on precautionary suspension," he said.

He added that criminal cases had been opened with the police.

"Specialised Crime Agency (Hawks) has also been brought on board to further investigate any trace of criminal conduct. This proactive approach to address the findings of the forensic report cannot in any way be equated with an intentional behaviour seeking to seal the forensic report," he said.

Nzimande appointed a forensic company to conduct a full-scale investigation into the financial affairs of the NSF after an amount of just under R5 billion, over two financial years, could not be properly accounted for.

Nzimande made this announcement in May when he delivered his budget vote speech for the 2022/23 financial year, but the Auditor-General first picked up the irregularities.

In September, MPs thwarted an attempt to conceal parts of the forensic investigation.

But Nzimande made it clear the report had been fully released to Scopa, the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation, and the Hawks.

‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’

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