THE Higher Education Students’ Loans Board (HESLB) has collected over 507bn/- out of 784bn/- from beneficiaries since the government started providing loans to eligible students of higher learning institutes across the country in 1994.
Speaking to the ‘Daily News’ on current statistics of loan disbursements and status of repayments from the beneficiaries at the weekend, HESLB Director of Loan Repayment and Recovery, Ignatus Oscar said the collected amount was from 198,659 out of 308,639 students issued with loans.
He said the money, which is 63 per cent of the target, was collected as of January this year with the remaining 277bn/- still in the hands of beneficiaries, whose whereabouts and workplace was still traced by the HESLB board.
“We have recorded massive improvements in recovering loans issued to beneficiaries and of late we have been tracing the remaining 277bn/- loan, thanks to a loan management system that simplifies the exercise,” he said.
Citing an example, Mr Oscar said the board had discovered that about 17,000 graduates changed their particulars making it difficult to trace them, but thorough verification and reconciliation 13,000 of them had been contacted, while the remaining 4,000 were still being traced.
Speaking on the Lake Zone, he said about 3.6bn/- was expected to be recovered this financial year from 259 employers in Mwanza, Kagera, Shinyanga, Simiyu, Mara, Kigoma and Geita, where 3,000 beneficiaries were employed, 2.2bn/- being collected as of January this year.
He commended increased awareness from employers on the importance of timely remittance of deductions, which made it possible for HESLB to surpass collection targets for the last financial year 2017/18, which saw 3.1bn/- being collected against the 3bn/- target.
However, Mr Oscar cited some challenges facing the collection of loans, which included lack of cooperation and compliance from some employers in the private sector.
“We have come to discover that some private employers tend to cheat in the implementation of this crucial exercise, some having two payrolls and others making deductions from net salaries instead of gross salaries. Heavy fines have been imposed on those defying procedures and warn them to stop this illegal practice,” he noted.
Moreover, lack of awareness among a section of stakeholders on the HESLB Act of 2004 and its functions was an issue, while a substantial number of beneficiaries thinking they were entitled to receive funds as grants and not loans needed to be repaid.
He said HESLB has increased capacity in tracing loans and loan beneficiaries, but overall, political will had also pushed the establishment of modern systems linked to other government systems that facilitated the tracing of defaulters and simplify loan collection.
As of this financial year, over 198,000 beneficiaries have been repaying their loans, 178,000 direct from the payrolls, while 28,000 are paying privately in installments.