The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) gave a briefing on its Third Quarter 2011 performance and expenditure. The key areas on which the DHA was focusing included refugee management, achieving a positive skills migration trend, with a focus on critical skills shortages, attempting to register all births within 30 days, and ensuring that ID documents were issued to all South Africans of 16 years and above. Its strategic objectives included the combating of fraud and corruption, upgrading of IT infrastructure, creating asylum seeker and refugee management strategies and facilitating movement of regular travellers across neighbouring borders. It recognised the need to build leadership capacity, to achieve clean audits, to fight cybercrime and to improve service delivery. The performance targets were outlined and for each the actual performance was specified. The same was done in respect of expenditure, where the budget for each line item was compared to the spending, with instances of slow spending being explained. The DHA noted that particular challenges had arisen with inability to fill posts, late submission of invoices by suppliers, and late receipt of expenditure vouchers from Department of International Relations and Cooperation.
The reports were generally favourably received, although some members were critical of certain aspects of delivery, including the registration of births, the time taken to issue temporary residence permits and finalise Permanent Residence. ID duplication remained a problem and one Member pointed out that failure to ensure that all deaths were registered presented opportunities for corruption. The continuing vacancies were a cause for concern. Members questioned the position at the ports of entry, both maritime and land borders, and one Member suggested extension of port entry facilities at the Cape Town Waterfront. Members were interested in hearing how the targets had been measured and how the results of the coaching clinics could be measured. Members noted that there were still too many instances of corruption and cybercrime, and asked for clarity on the figures for disciplinary action taken. They also honed in on how the DHA and other departments intended to attract, track and retain scarce skills, noted that there may need to be changes to the permit system as a result of amendments to the Immigration Act, and said there had to be more concerted and unified efforts across departments and clusters. The Smart Card was questioned, and the question of electronic fingerprinting and electronic archives, as well as destruction of some archived documents, was raised. Members commented on the lack of facilities in some provincial offices and noted that the DHA had now adopted an approach that the provincial managers must take more responsibility for issues in their own provinces, including repairs and management of staff. Members questioned the spending, noting that there had been several virements of funds, and asked whether funds that were earmarked for DHA projects, that were paid over to the Department of Public Works, but were not spent by that department, could be reallocated to other projects.
Third quarter 2011 performance and expenditure report: Department of Home Affairs briefings
Mr Mkuseli Apleni, Director General, Department of Home Affairs, took the Portfolio Committee through the key performance areas of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA or the Department). There was a focus on effective refugee management and realising a positive skills migration trend, of around 50 000 migrants annually. There also had to be a focus on critical skills shortages. In respect of its citizens and residents, DHA aimed to register the birth of every child within 30 days of birth. It further aimed to issue an identity documents to every South African of 16 years and above. The strategic plan was grounded in the outcomes of secure South African citizenship, effective immigration management, and accessible and efficient service.
One important strategic objective was that the DHA must secure systems to combat fraud and corruption. Another was to upgrade IT infrastructure for improved security and data integrity. Efficient asylum seeker and refugee management strategies had to be created. The movement of regular travellers across neighbouring country borders had to be facilitated. It was crucial to realise a positive skills migration trend of around 50 000 migrants annually. Leadership capacity and capability had to be built, to enhance service delivery. Priority must be given to achieving ethical conduct and zero tolerance to corruption. The DHA was maintaining its commitment to getting clean audit reports. It was also committed to the fight against cyber crime, and to achieving efficient service delivery.
Mr Apleni tabled a report on performance, setting out indicators and targets, and how the Department had performed against each of those targets, in the third quarter of 2011 (see attached document for all statistics).
Ms Rudzani Rashikhinya, Chief Financial Officer, Department of Home Affairs, reported on the expenditure from October to December 2011. She matched the budget against actual spending per programme, and noted, and explained, why there had been slow spending in this period. Some of the particular challenges that she outlined included the delays in the filling of posts, late submission of invoices from suppliers, and late receipt of expenditure vouchers from Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO). Staff had already been trained in preparation for the move to the Basic Accounting System (BAS), and assets were currently loaded on LOGIS, in order to meet challenges.
The Chairperson noted that the issue of leases had come up the previous year, and said that this was in the hands of the Department of Public Works.
Mr A Gaum (ANC) remarked that the general perception was that the DHA was doing well. The Department was moving in the right direction, yet he would be cautious about applauding its performance as yet. There were a number of targets not achieved. There was general agreement that the DHA was performing very well in regard to issuing of IDs and passports and people had reported that they did not have to wait too long to obtain these documents. This indicated discipline in some areas, which had had a huge impact.
However, Mr Gaum said that the Department had not done so well with temporary residence permits and permanent residency. He knew of someone who had to wait seven years before getting a Permanent Residence permit, and that person had, in the meantime, married a South African citizen. Eventually, after an approach to the Minister’s office, the matter was sorted out in one week.
Mr Gaum also commented that little headway had been made with rectifying cases of duplication, and a solution was needed for this. There were figures that were hard to understand.
Mr Apleni responded that it had been found that in the past, some applications had sat in some remote office for long periods. The tracking system was now tracking the numbers of requests and those that were handled on a daily basis, and this system was also able to indicate the backlogs. He was confident that these could be cleared.
Mr Gaum noted that scarce skills permits complaints were also not being handled well. It was particularly important for South Africa to be able to process these permits quickly.
Mr Apleni responded that there had been a general improvement in the speed of dealing with applications. The issuing of ID documents took 180 days in the past, but that had been brought down to 54 days. Information about the progress of applications was currently available, on a daily basis. Information Technology (IT) processes had been implemented.
Mr Apleni added that it was not up to the DHA to identify scarce skills needs, as this fell within the responsibility of the Department of Labour. There had been amendments to permits, as in the past permits had been issued to whole families, whereas now the skills of all the family members were taken into consideration. The Department of Economic Development could also supply a list of scarce skills.
Mr Gaum said that new legislation was in force that could help deal with unachieved targets.
Mr Apleni responded that whilst this was true, regulations still had to be put in place.
Mr Gaum insisted that it was an Act of Parliament and was thus enforceable.
Mr Apleni reiterated that for practical purposes, the regulations were needed in order to achieve implementation.
Mr Gaum felt that the DHA had a duty to try harder for the filling of vacancies.
Mr Apleni responded that a Ministerial Cluster was looking at vacancies.
Mr Gaum referred to the statement that all vessels had to dock in Cape Town harbour. He asked if it was not possible to grant port of entry facilities at the Waterfront.
Mr Apleni responded that the patrolling of maritime borders was “hopeless”. The DHA was working with the Department of Defence in relation to the clearing of vessels. At Cape Town, the maritime office used to be outside the harbour precincts, but had now been moved inside and this office was clearing vessels. Department of Home Affairs only required that vessels should dock in officially at this office, and passengers or crew would then be free to leave the harbour precincts.
Mr M de Freitas (DA) asked how the total figure for births registered had been calculated. He thought that in this respect, the DHA was not showing good performance.
Mr M Mnqasela (DA) felt that the targets for birth registration were a positive move, but they could prove difficult to meet, especially in far flung areas. If this failed, government would be in the same position it had inherited, with lack of documentation and recordals. There had to be a focus on reaching clinics and hospitals in rural areas.
Mr Apleni replied that there were personnel placed at the outlying hospitals, and the Department of Home Affairs would also call in to collect registration of birth forms. Mobile trucks also dealt with registration of births.
Mr de Freitas asked if ID documentation was handled, in the case of matriculants, in conjunction with the Department of Basic Education, and he also asked if the DHA had the necessary manpower resources. He complained that there were still systemic problems around ID duplication, with people having to submit their documentation more than once, and urged that a more streamlined approach had to be followed. People had to send forms more than once. There had to be streamlining.
Mr Apleni responded that currently both a number and fingerprint had to be produced in order to register. In the past, although ID numbers were assigned to people, they often did not have copies of the fingerprints on file. In the new system, one copy would be kept by the individual, one would be kept by the Department’s offices and one at Headquarters.
Mr De Freitas said that there had to be increased initiatives to achieve scarce skills targets. He asked how the results of coaching clinics could be measured.
Mr Apleni replied that results could be measured by looking at improved efficiency, caring and professionalism. Public satisfaction was the yardstick applied.
Mr De Freitas asked what it meant that cases “finalised” in respect of the disciplinary report, and whether this implied that people had been charged, or their inquiry had been finalised as justified or not justified. He also asked why the DHA planned to destroy archive documents.
Mr Apleni answered that a tag of “finalised” meant that the final decision had been reached in the case. He noted that the only documents that would be destroyed in the Archive were those that could be lawfully destroyed and that those documents that bore a proviso that they could not be destroyed for a certain length of time would not be.
Mr Mnqasela advised that it would be advisable to use universal coverage and get a better picture of corruption, in order to curb criminal elements. Cybercrime was being used to draw people in to loan schemes, and they would then be defrauded of millions. Companies were using local banks to channel funds. He asked if the DHA could work with the Justice and Security Cluster to combat that.
Mr Apleni replied that there had been attempts to register cell-phone numbers to reduce the likelihood of them being used for cybercrime, but it was not yet possible to block cybercrime completely.
Mr Mnqasela said that the United Nations (UN), and no doubt other organisations, would object to any profiling of the countries whose refugees could “safely” be received. For instance, Uganda did not have tolerance towards gay or lesbian people, and if refugee status was refused to Ugandans, this could give rise to a volatile situation.
Mr Apleni responded that the important point was that South Africa did not discriminate against anyone, and therefore it did not grant refugee status or immigrant status on the basis of the country of origin.
Mr Mnqasela noted that there was a challenge of coordination between the DHA, South African Revenue Service (SARS) and Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries at border posts. He asked if the border management agency was not yet operational.
Mr Apleni responded that the State Security Agency (SSA) had to take the lead in border management, according to its mandate, and it must therefore establish the border management agency. The border situation was complex. In Mpumalanga, people were living on and around the border, and he pointed out that a community would not appreciate the effect of a border if they lived one side of the border line, yet their Chief lived on the other. Solutions had to be found for these issues, together with the Department of Social Development.
Mr Mnqasela asked who was partnering with DHA to try to attract foreign skills, wondered about the involvement of the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) and whether there was a strategy in this regard. He also urged that there be a common and baseline strategy on corruption.
Mr Apleni replied that indeed there had to be a strategy to establish what scarce skills would be sought and to whom permits would be granted. He also agreed that a corruption strategy had to be formulated, together with the SAPS and the Justice and Security Cluster. This had to be in line with the Constitution.
The Chairperson asked what had become of the Learning Academy, and if that had been intended to improve management.
A DHA delegate replied that learners at the Learning Academy had undergone a course with the Wits School of Business. Courses were designed by the Department.
Ms S Rwexana (COPE) asked about foreigners applying for residency. She pointed out that people who were resident in Maseru and Swaziland were apparently crossing the border regularly to claim pensions in South Africa, then returning home for the rest of the month.
Ms Rwexana asked when the Smart Card would become a reality.
Mr Apleni answered that the Minister would explain the Smart Card situation in due course.
Ms G Borman (ANC) referred to virements and the movement of funds, noting that there was not a matching of the budget and spending, in respect of almost every line item, and this raised the question whether the budget was being used properly at all. She asked for clarity on what was meant by “HR services “ and “Compensation of employees”.
Ms Rashikhinya replied that the DHA looked, throughout the year at areas where it was having difficulty in spending. A committee, that also included the Provincial managers, would sit to decide whether there was likely to be underspending on line items. She agreed that there had been delays in filling of positions. Money was available for the compensation of employees. There were also other unfunded priorities in the Department. Once the budget had been reviewed in the way she had described, there would be virements done to transfer funding to where it might be needed. For instance, there was no money to pay the Government Printing Works for passports, and National Treasury had advised that a Trading Account should be opened. Some money had then been shifted from the budget for compensation of employees (where posts would not be filled) to pay for these passports. She noted that “compensation of employees” related to their salaries, and “HR Services” was a separate programme. She added that the DPW had certain money to effect building works for the DHA, but when it turned out that this money was not being spent by the DPW, R25 million had been redirected to cover other areas.
Ms Borman said that the new Immigration Act meant that the organogram would have to be adjusted, and this would affect the budget. The DHA had not apparently done anything yet to address that.
Ms Borman asked what was meant by the “Look and Feel” programme, and asked how important this really was, noting that R6 million had been set aside for it.
Ms Rashikhinya replied that it referred to branding, and said it was similar to what Vodacom had done. Every office of an organisation was required to look the same, and the DHA therefore wanted all its offices to be recognisable and to use standard colours and logos.
Ms Borman noted that it would not be possible to pay for municipal services in the next quarter, and that many municipalities would, for instance, be closing their taps. In her own constituency there were no mobile centres. She asked how, in such instances, it would be possible to use an electronic archive system would keep records.
Ms Rashikhinya replied that documents would be scanned into the electronic archives.
Ms Borman noted that her grandmother had died in 1975, but when the death certificate was requested, for some purpose, in 2009, the records showed that her death had never been entered in to the records. This was a situation that was ripe for abuse.
Mr Apleni replied that many people were under the impression that the only reason to register a death was in order to process some or other claim. He noted that this highlighted the importance that all government systems had to talk to each other. He assured Ms Borman that links had been put in place with the banks and that systems were being put in place so that it was no longer possible to draw money using the card of a deceased person.
Ms Borman said that the Committee, on its oversight visit to Mpumalanga, had noted that many vacancies had not been filled. Appointment processes were drawn out, and passed from office to office until the post had to be re-advertised.
Mr Apleni added that appointments would be decentralised, but internal audit and anti-corruption measures would be strengthened.
Mr G Mackintosh (COPE) thought the Department was on the right track and was showing more transparency, and he hoped that it would continue to improve. He opined that biometrics could help to address duplication.
Mr Mackintosh said, with regard to scarce skills, that the economies of Libya, Dubai and Qatar had been built on skills of non-residents. The President had stressed the need for growth. The option to use foreign scarce skills could be considered, but that would require changes to the permit regime. That would require a new permitting regime. He had asked for help in the deep rural areas. There was no photocopying machine at Estcourt.
Ms Rashikhinya responded that this would be looked into. She pointed out that some offices did not take steps to procure on time, despite claiming that they had done so.
The Chairperson noted that there was no cashier’s office in some provinces. There was also a lack of trained people to do fingerprinting, leading to substandard prints.
Mr Apleni agreed that there were some substandard offices, and many had been inherited. He said that electronic fingerprinting would solve the problem of fingerprinting standards. Norms would be established for offices, and these related also to capacity. Some of the 117 trucks that had been acquired as mobile offices still were staffed only with the driver. However, the general strategy was to allow the managers of the branches to manage, whilst the provincial managers would look at appointments, and it was now understood that if a door was broken at a provincial office, then the provincial manager must take responsibility for fixing it, and not try to shift this onto the Head Office.
Mr Apleni added, in respect of earlier remarks about infrastructure at ports of entry, that funds earmarked for DHA work were placed with the Department of Public Works. The current amount was R475 million, but the DPW was not spending this amount.
The meeting was adjourned.
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