The Higher Education Loans and Scholarship Board says it will this September begin collecting repayments from UNZA and CBU alumni from as far back as 2004, adding that it is able to trace beneficiaries via NAPSA and NRC records.
And the Board says beneficiaries will have to pay back not only tuition fees but all other allowances they received, including accommodation, book and project allowance.
Speaking when she featured on Radio Phoenix’ Let the People Talk today, HELSB board chairperson Penelope Mapoma said most beneficiaries had been traced through NRCs.
“On targeting of in-service people, I think that’s what we are doing because the initial target are people whose loans have matured and most of them are in employment and as we discussed earlier, we have tracked most of these people using their NAPSA records and their NRCs so the fresh graduates, I am sure their time will come but for now, we are targeting people who we can actually track,” Mapoma said.
Mapoma promised that the funds would be utilised for their intended purpose.
“I think accountability will help raise the integrity of the whole process. Once we start receiving these funds, our intention as the board is to put them in a bank account and to ring fence. In banking there is a concept which is called ring fencing meaning those funds will not be used for anything other than the intended purpose. Additionally, we intend to hire on our structure a fund manager so that there will be a dedicated person managing those funds and we have the mandate to invest and raise funds in other words so our commitment as a board is to ensure that that money is collected, kept safely and used for the intended purpose,” said Mapoma.
And HELSB acting director Ireen Chirwa explained that beneficiaries would have to pay back not only tuition fees but all other allowances they received, including accommodation, book and project allowance.
“They are supposed to pay everything. The composition of the loan is that if they are a beneficiary, we definitely paid some amount towards their tuition fees. If we paid accommodation fees for them, not everyone is owing us on accommodation because not everyone was accommodated at that time but as of 2011, those that were not accommodated received an accommodation refund so those are owing us in terms of accommodation refund, tuition fees and in addition to these fees, what we gave them in terms of meal allowances, the K22.50 per day that they are talking about, that is the amount that they need to pay back, it forms part of the loan. Then we gave them book allowance, it forms part of the loan. We gave them project allowance, that formed part of the loan. So they need to calculate how much we paid for their tuition fees from first year up to the time they finished or left the university, all the meal allowance that they received, all the book allowances that they received and all the project allowances,” Chirwa said.
She explained that the board would only deduct from beneficiaries’ salaries after the 40 per cent take home threshold.
“The guide that we have, when you look at the Act, we are supposed to deduct as per prescribed conditions so one of the things that we are taking into consideration is that we cannot deduct from 40 per cent take home pay. So if someone is getting K4,000, for example, we need to know what is their 40 per cent take home pay before we go in with our deduction. So no one will get less than 40 per cent. So the calculations is that even if the period is 10 years, if for instance the calculation of someone who is getting K4,000, their take home pay is K2,300, the 40 per cent in that case brings them to about K2,100, we can only go in in the remaining K300. So even if we wanted to get K500 from there, we can’t. The 40 per cent for everyone, regardless of where they are working will apply,” she said.
Asked why the board had added a15 per cent interest instead of sticking to the prevailing government rate as is stated in the loan agreement forms, Chirwa said; “We have the forms, they have the forms. Can I just ask that those that have the forms which indicate something else can come through so that we can discuss.”
She advised beneficiaries to contact the board for more information.
“If you check in the paper, we are giving notice that we are beginning to do this so before we deduct, we will give that communication but it is also on their part to inquire because they know they are owing so they should take an interest to find out how much they are owing and we have those dedicated lines and an officer that will be responding to all their queries through the email address which is appearing in the paper, firstname.lastname@example.org. They can send their messages and we will be able to respond to them individually,” said Chirwa.
“And on the cell phone numbers we have Cell Z, 0957090792 and MTN, 0968058811, these numbers are also on WhatsApp so they could send their messages and get responses. We have also acquired a code from ZICTA and we will be able to send those bulk messages as a way of communicating with our beneficiaries.”