Outa’s NSFAS bribe claims found to be ‘fictitious and ridiculous’

Former board chairperson Ernest Khosa. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/Independent Newspapers

Former board chairperson Ernest Khosa. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/Independent Newspapers

Published May 30, 2024


The now public 106-page report on the investigation into leaked voice recordings alleged to have implicated National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) former board chairperson Ernest Khosa found that the story of a bribe was “fictitious and ridiculous”, and the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) ought not to have lent credence to it.

Outa, however, this week said they stood by their report on the leaked recordings.

Advocate William Mokhare, on instruction by Tshisevhe Attorneys Incorporated (TGR), prepared the investigative report on the voice recordings shared with Outa.

Khosa and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande were purportedly at the centre of corruption allegations.

The recorded conversation was between Khosa, Joshua Maluleke and Thula Ntumba.

Mokhare’s report found that while Outa said in its report that Khosa received R1.5 million from the service providers, Ntumba and Maluleke did not say so in the recordings.

“(Outa) conceded that there is no mention of R1.5m by Ntumba and Maluleke. And nowhere do they say, the minister received R6m.

“So, on available facts, and on Ntumba and Maluleke’s own version, the story of the bribe is simply fictitious and ridiculous, and Outa ought not to have lent credence to it. What makes it so obvious that it was Ntumba and Maluleke’s own creation is that they recorded their own conversation discussing the bribe and how they would besmear Khosa’s name and how they would confront him when he arrived.

“But when Khosa arrived, none of the allegations they discussed among themselves were put to Khosa. The only logical inference is that Ntumba and Maluleke knew that Khosa would deny the allegations, thus rendering their recordings of no use for them,” the report read.

It further noted there could have been no other purpose for Ntumba recording the conversations during the meetings other than he was looking for a smoking gun that he could use against Khosa.

It found that the audio recordings were authentic but secretly made without Khosa’s knowledge and that they allegedly attempted to unduly influence Khosa to interfere with the Werksmans investigation but did not succeed.

“There is no evidence to substantiate the allegations that Khosa received money from the service provider(s) or persons linked to the service provider(s) of NSFAS. There is no evidence that Khosa and the minister met with the service providers at the airport, let alone with Ntumba, as alleged in the audio recordings. Although from the recordings Khosa did not discuss confidential board matters with Ntumba and Maluleke, it was an error of judgment for him to have allowed a discussion involving the board and board decisions to take place with them, and for him to participate in such discussions,” the report read.

It recommended that the board should reprimand Khosa for his actions in discussing the board and board decisions with Ntumba and Maluleke, and for failing to inform the board about such discussions.

At a media briefing this week, NSFAS administrator Freeman Nomvalo said: “There are three recommendations from the Mokhare report. One of them is about reprimanding the former chairperson; the manner in which that recommendation is written it’s as if the board still exists and they would need to reprimand. The board was dissolved and the former chairperson is no longer a board member. This means ... there is no effect to be derived from that. However, the other two recommendations speak to the Werksmans Attorneys recommendations which (we) are working to implement.”

Outa investigations manager Rudie Heyneke said they stood by their report on the leaked recordings.

“We want to emphasise that the allegations of gratification received by the minister and Ernest Khosa was made by Khosa’s two acquaintances, Ntumba and Maluleke, and can be heard very clearly in conversations which Ntumba himself recorded. Outa never made the allegations, we merely reported on the recordings, which we received from a whistle-blower and not from Ntumba, as advocate Mokhare incorrectly assumes in his report.

“Not only was it confirmed by advocate Mokhare, but Khosa himself confirmed that he took part in the discussions. It is therefore noteworthy that advocate Mokhare’s report authenticates the recordings but refutes Outa’s report on the content of the conversations, that is, the allegations of bribery against the minister and Khosa.

“We stand by our report that Khosa’s actions were unbecoming of the chairperson of a board of directors and that he should be held accountable for his actions,” said Heyneke.

Heyneke called for authorities to expedite their investigation over bribery and kickback allegations.

Cape Times