Department of Home Affairs Annual Report: Minister's and Director-General's briefings

Home Affairs

19 October 2009
Chairperson: Mr B Martins (ANC) & Ms M Maunye (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Minister of Home Affairs and Director General of the Department of Home Affairs gave a report on the Annual Report of the Department for 2008/09. The Department explained its key strategic priorities for the reporting year. Although it had received a qualified report for the 2008/09 financial year, this was an improvement on the disclaimer of the previous year, and the Department was taking very seriously the shortcomings identified and trying to address them. The Department noted that the task team was still in place to address the turnaround of the Department, and would be available to address the Committee if it wished. A major project of the Department was ensuring that everyone in South Africa had an identity document, by 2010, although there had been some delays in this. The “Who Am I Online” project that was operated by the State Information Technology Agency had run into some difficulties and there was controversy surrounding the tender. This was to cost R2.3 billion. At the end of the day the Department had had little choice other than to accept the tender. Community forums were being set up to try to assist in identifying those without identity documents, and this would also serve as a forum for the public to take its queries in regard to the service of the Department.

Members asked questions about the standards of the Beit Bridge Border Post, and it was noted that many of the difficulties there must be addressed by Department of Public Works and Department of Transport. Members also asked why the forensic audit had not yet been brought to the Committee and when the results could be expected. The Minister and Director General addressed the issues of corruption, pointing out that these were not unique to the Department of Home Affairs, and set out the initiatives that aimed to tackle the problem, and Members conceded that it was unfair to pin all the blame on this Department. Members also raised questions around the number of disabled employees and trainees, what was the cut-off date for completion of the turnaround strategy, the late registration of births campaign, the publicity around the Department’s projects, and the Department’s role in preventing human trafficking. Members also enquired what the Department’s view was of students who might wish to stay in South Africa after completing their studies instead of returning to their home countries.

Meeting report

Minister and Director-General Briefings: Home Affairs
Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Minister of Home Affairs, and Mr Mavuso Msimang, Director General, Department of Home Affairs briefed the Committee on the Annual Report for 2008/9.

Mr Msimang told the Committee that the Department had received a series of disclaimers or qualified reports, pointing to serious weaknesses in financial management and controls. The Department launched a turn around strategy in 2007 to address the weaknesses. The report of the Auditor-General (AG) and Audit Committee acknowledged that there had been progress made in the Department. This was reflected in the audit opinion moving from a disclaimer in 2007/2008 to a qualified audit in 2008/09.

The Department had thus introduced a three-year strategic plan that was organised under six high level integrated strategic objectives in support of government priorities. The strategy was aimed at defining problems faced by the Department, extending and sustaining change; countering corruption and creating strong management values in the Department. 

The Department had also embarked on a project to ensure that everyone in South Africa had an identity document (ID) in the next two years. This project involved communities, through the formation of forums, to ensure that that the abuse of the registration process was minimal.

The Department Improved ID turnaround time from 127 days to an average of 40 days through the implementation of operations management, process reviews and ID Track and Trace. (The target was 60 days for first issues and 56 days for re-issues).

The capacity of the Client Service Centre was expanded to deal with 1 163 832 contacts made. 96.25% of calls were answered within 20 seconds, seen against the target of 80%.

However, the Department was facing issues regarding the “Who am I Online” project which was supposed to be ready by the time the World Cup starts. South Africa had promised FIFA that the project would be running by 2010. The problems with “Who am I online” were a result of State Information Technology Agency (SITA), who had done all the tender work and then wrote a letter to the Department of Home Affairs, effectively holding a gun to that Department’s head to appoint a certain company identified by SITA to undertake the work, although there were some questions around it.

Discussion
The Chairperson thanked the Department for the report but noted that a number of issues must be flagged for further attention. The Committee had visited a number of ports of entry and one the problems found was the lack of accommodation for people working at those ports of entry. He said that this was a result of the service level agreement that the Department had with the Department of Public Works (DPW).

The congestions at the Beit Bridge Border Post were seen as a result of the inadequacy of the Department of Home Affairs, despite the fact that this Department was not in charge of roads. There was only a single lane road at the border, and vehicles had to wait for each other. There were always kilometres of cars and trucks waiting to cross. These structural challenges had an impact on the Department’s ability to carry out its work.

Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Minister of Home Affairs, replied that the matters raised needed to dealt with by the cluster that attended to ports of entry. Some years ago, there was an agreement that the ports of entry into South Africa were going to be improved. Unfortunately that had not happened. The Beit Bridge border post was supposed to be the first border post to have improvements made, and these should have been attended to by the Department of Public Works. She confirmed that DHA would look into this, as improvements would certainly allow for better trade between the countries. The matter was a priority for DHA, but might not be a priority for DPW.

The inadequate infrastructure was not felt only in the Department’s ports of entries, but also at its offices. There were certain offices that were very badly deteriorated.

Mr J Methuba (ID) congratulated the Minister for the work that the Ministry and Department had done in the Department. More than R2 million was set aside for a team of experts to implement a turnaround strategy in the Department. It was about time that the team gave a progress report to the Portfolio Committee on the progress it had made. He was happy with the fact that the “Who am I online” project was still being implemented, despite the controversy that surrounded it. It was, however, a challenge for the Committee to address the controversy. He asked why the Department had not published the forensic audit that was done in the Department.

Dr Dlamini Zuma replied that the Department had nothing to hide with regard to the forensic audit. The forensic audit had not been sent back to the Department as there seemed to be some delays, but there was no political mileage to be made from this fact. The audit report results would be made public when the Department received them.

She added that there was a team of consultants, named Fever Tree, that was assisting the Department with its turn around strategy. They could be asked to brief the Committee if the Committee so wished.
Mr Msimang added that Fever Tree was part of a broad transformation programme. It was about transforming values and ensuring the corruption was eliminated.

The Minister reiterated that the problems with “Who am I online” resulted from SITA’s conduct. DHA had not acted incorrectly. However, there might be challenges to getting it ready by 2010, and the government had made a commitment to FIFA that the project would be ready by this date.

There was also corruption at Department of Home Affairs, but this was not limited to this institution alone, and it must be remembered that a corrupt official within DHA was working with someone outside DHA, so that both the Department and the wider community must be involved in the fight against corruption.

Ms B Gxowa (ANC) commented that the Department was progressing well and she was happy with the work being done by the Minister. She agreed that it was unfair to blame DHA for corruption, when in fact there was corruption in many places.

Ms M Maunye asked if the Department would be able to fund “Who am I Online” as she noted in the report that it was going to cost R4.5 billion.

Dr Dlamini Zuma said that the total amount for the  “Who am I Online” project was R2.3 billion, which was the figure agreed to by the parties and National Treasury.

Ms H Makhuba (IFP) asked if the Department had a training programme for disabled people working in the Department.

Dr Dlamini Zuma admitted that the Department was not doing enough to train disabled people. There were minimum requirements on the number of people with disability that a Department should have, and the Department was still trying to meet those requirements.

A Member of the Committee asked what steps the Department was going to take after having received the audit report.

Mr Msimang replied that the Department would take whatever steps need to be taken to rectify undesired issues raised in the report, and it would also improve on the points that it felt that it should improve on.

The Member asked what was the cut off date for the company commissioned by the Department to initiate a turn around strategy

Dr Dlamini Zuma said that the company was contracted to complete the project by end of December, but could, if the work was not finalised, continue to work until completion. There would be no extra remuneration for the work done after the agreed cut-off date. She emphasised that the consultants were only in charge of coming up with a transformation plan, but the staff members of the Department would implement the plan.

Ms D Mathebe (ANC) asked what would happen to people who were abusing the late registration of births process.

Mr Msimang said that the Department was having discussions with the National Prosecuting Authority on the matter of identity theft and the issue of people attaining identity documents illegally.  There was a way to deal with the issue. Where corruption was found on the part of any DHA employees, drastic measures would be taken, including prosecution and dismissal.

Dr Dlamini Zuma added that the late registration of births was a very complex matter, because while the Department wanted to be strict, it also had to ensure that South Africans had easy access to the relevant documents. The Department did not want to disadvantage South Africans. It was very difficult to establish the balance.

She noted that the Department was working with communities, and the first pilot project was at Sisonke District. Community members tended to know each other and could report who was born, where they were born, and who were their parents. The community would be asked to confirm a person’s citizenship if the Department was in doubt. There would be forums set up in communities to encourage people to register births.

The Department was also having a campaign for all South Africans to have identity documents in the next two years. The Department would not succumb to political pressure during election times, and no campaigns for people to get identity documents would be held during election times – such as in 2014.

The Minister indicated that the community forums would also oversee the work of the Department, because if someone was frustrated with the service offered by DHA, the forum would offer the opportunity to express this frustration and to seek help.

Ms S Rwexana (COPE) asked when the campaign was going to be launched, as the Minister only reported it to be a pilot project.

Dr Dlamini Zuma replied that the project was going to be launched in November 2009, and that lessons were already being learnt from the pilot project.

Ms Rwexana said that the late registration programme was not well publicised, and she did not even know about it until she was told about it in the meeting. She asked if the Department had any plans to educate people about the project.

Dr Dlamini Zuma replied that part of the work being done in the forum was the involvement of religious leaders, community leaders and other members of the community, who would then spread the word about the campaign. The reason for the late registration was that black Africans were never previously allowed to register births, but would only be permitted to carry their “dompas”. There was obviously a need for all South Africans to register births and to obtain identity documents.

Ms Mathebe asked when Section 50 of the Immigration Act would be amended. She was concerned about foreigners and foreign students not going back to their countries after completing their studies.

Dr Dlamini Zuma replied that South Africa had many skills shortages, and foreign students who wanted to work in South Africa, if they had scarce skills, should be allowed to stay in the country and work. She did not understand how the Member wanted the section to be amended. South Africa should rather be trying to encourage such people already in the country to stay, rather than having to undertake foreign recruitment drives.

Ms Mathebe asked what role the Department was playing in human trafficking.

Dr Dlamini Zuma replied that the Department did not encourage human trafficking. The Department people’s documents when they were coming in and out of the country. The mandate to guard the borders rested with the South African Police Service (SAPS). She noted that it was a very serious matter for women and children.

Adoption of Department of Home Affairs Annual Report and Financial Statements 2008/09

The Committee tabled and adopted its Report, with no changes.

The meeting was adjourned


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