The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) Richard Matlhare says his ministry has engaged the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) to help them track student loan defaulters.
Presenting MoESD’s executive summary to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday Matlhare said that with e-governance infrastructure, his ministry was hoping to move swiftly to bring to book those who still owe government and are supposed to have long paid back their student loans.
According to Matlhare, it has become clear that many people are either employed or running profitable businesses hence paying tax at the BURS yet they have no intention of paying back the money they owe government through student loans.
Currently Matlhare said they have engaged the BURS to determine whether their provisions allow them to divulge such information to a third party like the MoESD. He also indicated that his ministry was also working on adjusting student loans’ contracts to make it binding for beneficiaries to pay back the money within a certain period of time.
Although he told the PAC that there is a system in place that was designed to track beneficiaries, he said the system was facing challenges. Asked to disclose how much was currently owed to government by student loan defaulters, Matlhare failed to do so, saying they had currently made rough estimates that he could not disclose to the PAC.
Tati East MP Moyo Guma, when making a comment on Matlhare’s presentation, said it was disheartening that of all the money spent in student loan financing by government, private tertiary institutions were the biggest winners as it was evident that government was not getting back its investment.
Guma implored ministry officials to regroup and act swiftly to recover the money owed. In response, Matlhare said loan recovering was in fact part of his ministry’s priority areas in this financial year. According to Matlhare, the ministry was currently conducting a special audit which they hope will also assist them with ways of tracking and recovering money owed.