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Thursday

New revelations on students' loan rip-off in Tanzania emerge

New revelations of mismanagement of public funds have emerged following a special audit directed by the Minister for Education, Science, Technology and Vocational Training, Professor Joyce Ndalichako, into the Higher Education Student's Loans Board (HESLB).

She has, therefore, issued two weeks to HESLB to take immediate action against suspended officials, including disciplinary and legal actions and act on all issues raised in the special audit report and provide her with a report of the action taken.

Briefing journalists on the special audit's preliminary findings at the ministry's premises yesterday, Prof Ndalichako revealed shocking high levels of embezzlement of public funds, including double allocation of loans, poor records of outstanding loans from students and exorbitant allowances allocated for HESLB officials.

The special audit was directed by the minister following improper handling of loans amounting to 3.2bn/- by the HESLB Executive Director, Mr George Nyatega, who was shown the exit door early in February.

It has, however, revealed more rot in the HESLB, the minister pointed out, adding that there are students in high learning institutions who have received loans from both HESLB and Zanzibar Higher Education Students' Loans Board (ZHESLB).

On outstanding loans, the minister explained that HESLB records show that a smaller amount compared to the actual amount of outstanding loans was owed to the loans board by students "For example, 262 students received higher education loans amounting to 10,782,772,831.00/-; but the records show that the students are supposed to refund 5,535,738,393.65/-, which is half of what they received," she explained.

Another 247 students had refunded earlier loans by 25 per cent - 270,894,198/- but the HESLB records show the said student had not paid. But during the special audit, the students presented proof of payment - and when the loans board officials were confronted about it, they acknowledged that the payments had in fact been made.

Prof Ndalichako noted by having two separate systems of allocation of loans to students and the one holding records of outstanding loans from students, stressing that the outstanding record does not even have important information such as guarantors and addresses of the benefactor.

The special audit report shows that a total of 105,202 student, whose loans amounting to 712,872,822,863/- have matured have not started refunding the loans. The students received loans between 1994 and 2015.

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In the case of another 2,619 students with mature loans amounting to 14,468,564,375/-, records show that the students were registered in two different universities and received loans in both institutions.

In one university, the students received 7,126,694,729/- and while the other one got 7,341,869,646/-. The HESLB has also contracted different agents who are paid a commission to identify loan defaulters.

Prof Ndalichako noted that the agents have identified 462 loan defaulters, whose records show a much larger amount of 3,670,698,220/- compared to the actual debt owed of 2,842,350,188/-, a deficit of 828,348,032/-.

"This increment also means the commission paid to the agents will also go up. The most surprising thing is that the name of the agents contracted; one is called Machomengi Company, which is not even registered with BRELA, the other three which are registered under BRELA; one of them, called Sikonge International, is registered as Hardware and the two others belong to one person.

These are the agents contracted to identify loan defaulters," she noted. Prof Ndalichako said the report also found out 20 ghost students who are not in any high learning institutions but are receiving loans from HESLB, noting that the list of students to receive loans that is presented to banks is different from the list that is filed in the HESLB records.

"An in-depth audit is still going on to identify ghost students and we are liaising with the banks to give us reports of all accounts receiving loans from HESLB," she explained, cautioning all banks that those that will refuse to collaborate with the government will stop issuing loans through those financial institutions.

"For instance, we found out that two students with different names were using one account number.

How can this be possible? So the banks must give us information used to open the accounts to enable us identify these people. This exercise is currently underway and we are working with PCCB officials," she said, promising to provide a report within the next three weeks.

She warned those who had been mismanaging higher learning loans both at the HESLB and higher learning institutions that their days are numbered, vowing disciplinary and legal action against everyone involved.

Prof Ndalichako revealed that hefty allowances were being paid within the HESLB using money meant for student's loans and profits accrued from fixed deposits, noting that housing allowance is pegged at 30 per cent of a worker's salary, 20 per cent for fuel and 10 per cent for repairs.

She directed all executive directors and heads of department and institutions to ensure public funds are appropriately utilised.

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