One thing Blade Nzimande has going for him is that he communicated clearly what needed to happen when it came to Covid-19 in the post-school sector. That said, the institutions had (mostly) already decided what they were doing.
But he failed in many other areas. Nzimande had made an undertaking in April that students funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme would receive laptops. The tender was finally approved in November and laptops will now be distributed only next year. This broken promise has adversely affected thousands of students.
Nzimande’s biggest legacy failure has been in not addressing the certificate backlog at technical and vocational education training (TVET) colleges. Thousands of young people are unemployed because they cannot receive their qualifications.
The higher education department received a clean audit in the 2019-2020 financial year. However, the auditor general found noncompliance in internal controls, resulting in irregular expenditure of more than R138-million.
This provoked the ire of members of the portfolio committee on higher education, who questioned what the leadership had been doing, because this problem was raised by the auditor general in 2016 and 2017.
The portfolio committee was also unimpressed by the status of the Services Sector Education and Training Authority (Seta), referring to it as a “mess”. Of the 21 Setas, only seven received a clean audit. Setas have been a thorn in the department’s side for years because of how many fail to fulfil their mandate. The MPs said the status of the Setas showed that senior managers were not qualified. Seta chief executives are appointed by Nzimande.
Nzimande inherited a well-run department of science and innovation, and it received clean audit outcomes for three years in a row, as well as in 2019-2020.
The department’s annual report showed it achieved 40 of its 46 targets. The auditor general did not find wasteful expenditure, and a negligible R194 000 of irregular expenditure.