The Department of Home Affairs remarked that it had achieved a clean audit for the first time in 16 years in 2010/2011. The Department said its strategic plan was grounded in three outcomes: a secured South African citizenship and identity, managing an effective immigration policy that protected the national interest including economic, social and cultural development, plus its fight against corruption. In line with the National Population Registration Campaign 500 524 babies were registered within 30 days of birth and 445 507 between 31 days and 12 months, which totalled 946 031 registered within a year. A total of 724 533 IDs were issued during the year and a total of 46 additional hospitals were connected to enable online registration of birth, making a total of 192 hospitals connected. In terms of immigration, the Department deported a total of 55 825 illegal foreigners and documented 275 762 Zimbabweans, thus reducing the number of undocumented and fraudulent foreigners. Refugee reception Offices would be moved to the borderline. Establishment of Status Determination Committees at Refugee Reception Offices expected to also improve compliance to set time frames. The Department had embarked on a vigorous public relations campaign which culminated in the Minister making an appearance on the popular television show, Generations. The Births and Deaths Registration Amendment Bill and the amendments to the South African Citizenship Act were assented to and signed by the President. Both Amendment Acts would improve service delivery in the Department. The Department overspent in terms of legal services, printing of passports and office accommodation for staff members. Certain financial functions were decentralised and a Memorandum of Understanding was reached between them and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation. The Department of International Relations managed certain activities at South Africa’s foreign missions on behalf of the Department of Home Affairs. Strategic priorities going forward and performance against specific targets were provided.
Members noted the positive turnaround of the Department and commended the unqualified audit report. Questions were posed on immigration, implementation of the smart card, the implications of the Department’s overspending and the fight against cybercrime. Members welcomed the decentralisation of certain financial functions but cautioned that this must be monitored. The closure of refugee centres was queried. The Department appreciated the encouraging words and noted that the over-expenditure was as a result of past inefficiencies.
The Director General in the Department of Home Affairs, Mkuseli Apleni, presented his Department’s performance against government priority outcomes, DHA’s Performance Agreement with the President and its strategic priorities as well as its budget. He said the Department strived to provide an efficient service that was accessible and corruption free. 251 cases of suspected corruption cases were identified and 108 of these were finalised. It was noted that Stakeholder Forums had been launched in 254 of the 282 municipalities with the purpose of monitoring and improving service delivery and to combat corruption related to the Department. The resolution of the Who Am I Online (WAIO) dispute paved the way for bringing the project back in line with the original budget and objectives to modernise the information technology and systems of the Department. The settlement avoided a lengthy court process. A state of the art queue management system was introduced in 12 offices. The Director General pointed out that systems and facilities were improved to ensure that FIFA World Cup commitments were met. The Movement Control System (MCS) at 34 priority ports helped in the clearing of 2 387 524 travellers during the event. It was noted that 80 053 temporary and permanent residence permits were adjudicated at the newly established Central Adjudication Hub.
In terms of human resources, the Department implemented a working time arrangement after negotiations with trade unions, resulting in a decrease in overtime claims from R20 million in 2009/10 to R10 million in 2010/11. The Department’s employment equity status stood at 84.94% African, Coloured 5.88%, Indian 0.85%, and White 8.33% while those with disabilities stood at 0.3%.
The Chief Financial Officer took the Committee through the Annual Financial Statements. He noted that the Department had worked with National Treasury to find a solution for settling debt from previous years. She noted that the Department had appointed Directors of Finance and State Accountants in all nine provinces. This was part of the Department’s decentralisation efforts. An increase of 46% in departmental revenue related to the collection of revenue by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation. Expenditure for capital assets increased by 47% due to the settlement of the Gijima contract lease. The Department had set aside R1.2 billion as contingent liabilities which related to summons and legal cases against it. The Department received an unqualified audit opinion for the first time in 16 years; however the uncertainties of various pending court cases was identified as a matter of emphasis in the audit report.
The Chairperson congratulated the Department on the positive turnaround, she then opened up for questions from the Committee.
Ms M Boroto (ANC) congratulated the Department on the clean audit report. She asked how the Department would correct any loose ends which arose from the overspending and the implications of this. She asked about the performance of the Department’s agencies. Clarity was needed on the progress of the smart card.
Ms B Mncube (ANC) pointed out that the Department’s turnaround strategy was yielding results and went further to state that the Department had turned from being “Horror Affairs” to “Home Affairs”. She asked about the backlog in filling vacancies in the Department. The work of the Department was commended especially the refusal of visas to British hooligans during the FIFA World Cup. Foreigners and the changing of their status while in the Republic were raised.
Ms M Moshodi (ANC) queried why the Department was taking too long to pay its creditors and what action was taken against workers who did not declare their business interests. She asked about the objective of the Minister appearing in a television soap opera.
Mr S Plaatjie (COPE) inquired about the implications that the overspending would have on the 2011/2012 financial year. He wanted to know about the value of the disposed assets and how far the Department had gone in its fight against cybercrime.
Mr J De Villiers (DA) commended the Department for the good work it was doing, noting the number of illegal immigrants deported. He wanted to know how the Department set to reach its turnaround strategy. The audit of the Department’s offices was queried and when the Who Am I project would be completed. The closure of refugee centres in the country’s provinces and the issue of employing more staff with disabilities was raised.
Mr W Faber (DA) asked if there was a time framework for the turnaround strategy and wanted clarity on the smart card project. He inquired about the issue of accountability within the Department and whether staff members were taken to task because of their actions.
Prince M Zulu (IFP) asked why the Department was renting offices instead of working with the Department of Public Works to build offices for the Department.
Mr T Mashamaite (ANC) noted that the Musina border post had office space problems and asked if the Department monitored the work of non-governmental organisations that assisted refugees.
The Chairperson wanted clarity on the Department’s priority for job creation and the filling of vacant posts and cautioned the Department to monitor the decentralisation of financial services. She asked about the deployment of the Defence Force to assist the Department with human resources.
The Director General appreciated the encouraging words from the Committee and noted that the over-expenditure was as a result of past inefficiencies. The over-expenditure would not have an impact on the 2011/12 budget and the over-expenditure had been approved by National Treasury. It was reiterated that DHA’s entity, Government Printing Works, no longer had a disclaimer in its audit report.
The process of implementing the smart card was still on and the settling of the Gijima matter would be enable it to fast track the issuing of the smart card. The filling of vacancies was discussed at the ministerial level. The department had to look at where it could improve the length of time it took to fill a position. He noted that there were no legal requirements for the registration of businesses. One could enter the country on a visitor’s visa and then set up a business. This had to stop. To register your business in this country, foreigners would have to apply from outside this country and the South African authorities would establish if this business would add value to the country. SARS and Home Affairs had been tasked to look at this and close this gap. On the matter of people stealing South African citizenship, he said that one had to change the legislation to prevent foreigners gaining citizenship by giving birth in this country.
The timely payment of creditors was a challenge the Department still faced and it was even discussed at the Cabinet’s Lekgotla earlier in the year. He believed that decentralisation of payment of suppliers was needed to solve this problem. Disciplinary measures would be taken against staff members who were caught on the wrong side of the law. Accountability and the fight against corruption were of paramount importance to the Department. Joint efforts were underway with the Department of Communications to fight cybercrime.
The appearance of the Minister on the television series did result in an increase in the number of births registered. The importance of Stakeholder Forums was emphasised as crucial in achieving the Department’s set targets. The auditing of offices was still underway. National management had each been delegated to look at a specific province so linkages were created between headquarters and the provinces and this helped to bring about the needed changes and they do not only theorise about this. DHA realised for security reasons, it could not employ contract workers. Over 1 100 contract workers had been converted to permanent staff and 1000 something had been released - that was why there was a reduction in staff. On the matter of the court settlement, it was settled at R1,14 billion to complete the project. The contract was R4,5 billion and DHA negotiated it to R2,489 billion. What was left to complete it was costed at R1,149 billion. The reception centres need to be close to the border so people had documents before they moved into the country.
The Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Ms Fatima Chohan, pointed out that people who had refugee status could have their papers renewed at Home Affairs offices in the nine provinces rather than at the refugee centres. This would reduce the queues at the refugee centres. The deportation of illegal immigrants would increase as this was in line with the Department’s strategy of managing immigration services. Refugee centres would be located at border towns so Musina border post would remain but it would have to be expanded. The fight against cybercrime was crucial and the Ministry was working with the South African Police Service to solve this problem. What was important was preventing the exposure of inappropriate material to children which was an important aspect of cybercrime.
The Chairperson thanked the Department.
The meeting was adjourned.
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