Department of Home Affairs Infrastructure Expansion and Maintenance plans
Committee: Home Affairs
Chairperson: Ms M Maunye (ANC)
Date of Meeting: 11 Sep 2012
SummaryThe Department of Home Affairs (DHA) briefed the Committee on its Infrastructure Development Plan 2010/11 to 2013/14. This plan was directly in line with the Government outcomes to increase the public service to citizens of South Africa. The core processes and key objectives were geared to the DHA’s intention to increase its footprint, and to improve access to ensure that all South African citizens were within 25km (or 50km in the case of Northern Cape) of a Home Affairs office. The need to prioritise the rural areas was an issue repeated throughout the meeting by the DHA and Members, and it was noted that methods of doing this included mobile offices, provision of 4x4 vehicles, negotiating with tribal chiefs to release land, negotiating sharing of premises with courts, schools and Council offices, and use of temporary structures pending final permanent offices. An outline of the provincial spread of existing and planned offices, including refugee centres, ports of entry and staff accommodation, was provided. 24 new offices were planned over the next three years. 89 offices had been refurbished over the last four years. Overall, 744 service delivery points were needed to meet the standards of access levels, and currently there were 407 fixed service delivery points of various sizes, 5 refugee centres, 68 ports of entry, 117 computerised mobile service trucks, and 25 uncomputerised points, using 4x4 vehicles. The criteria for the opening of new service points emphasised places where no offices existed, or that were inaccessible to mobile trucks, provision of offices in existing Thusong Centres and Rural Development nodes. DHA was satisfied that the money was being well spent. The costs to date were outlined.
Overall DHA had insufficient funding to realise all its objectives, and set out a number of possible solutions. It would prefer to continue to upgrade existing premises to be in line with the Look and Feel Project branding and customer service, as well as open new offices, and would not like to deviate from its plans. It had approached National Treasury for more funding, although it was aware of competing priorities in the country, but was also exploring other options such as public/private partnerships. It was still dependent on the Department of Public Works for its leases, acquisition of buildings and refurbishments and this still presented a major challenge in terms of efficiency and cost-effectiveness, particularly around the leases. Ideally, DHA wanted to acquire its own premises, particularly in Pretoria, where its Head Office was spread across the city. It also wanted to take back some of its own facilities management from DPW. The master plan took account of staffing, IT and equipment for offices, but theft of cables hindered connectivity, and some offices were operating with only two officials. DHA intended to accelerate the National Population Registration Campaign Strategy, connect to health facilities, and expand its footprint in the Thusong Centres, and would also try to iron out the problems around sharing of offices, and negotiate favourable terms for leases in Post Office premises.
Members emphasised the urgent need to improve facilities in rural areas, and made some suggestions how this could be done. They were concerned lest stakeholder forums might attempt to define Home Affairs policy and development plans, but noted their definition and felt that in addition to these, DHA should also market its own successes and inform the public about the facilities available. Members suggested regular schedules for the mobile office visits, stressed the importance of continuing to refurbish current facilities. Two Members in particular were concerned about the spending to date, pointing out the discrepancy between budget and allocated amounts, and asking why DHA had already spent so much in the first six months of the financial year, and asked for a written answer. They were in support of public/private partnerships. They suggested that DHA should be considering more self-service facilities and more creative approaches, asked about the staffing policy. One Member felt that facilities management should remain within DPW, if it could improve its services, but others disputed this and supported a move to other options, if DHA had sufficient capacity, and also were in general support of purchasing own premises. Specific questions were asked on offices in Gauteng and Mpumalanga and Members asked for names of the offices to be sent.
Department of Home Affairs Infrastructure Expansion and Maintenance plans 2010/11 to 2013/14
Mr Mpho Moloi, Acting Provincial Manager: Gauteng Provincial Department of Home Affairs, briefed the Committee on the progress of the plan by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA or the Department) around infrastructure and maintenance, between 2011 and 2014.
This plan covered the whole Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and its objectives were linked to government outcomes of having ‘an efficient, effective and development orientated public service and an empowered fair and inclusive citizenship’. The Minister of Home Affairs had entered into an agreement with the President, laying a framework for turnaround times for all services, queuing times, and unit costs per service. This agreement also outlined the maximum distance that a citizen should have to travel in order to access a provincial Department of Home Affairs. Mr Moloi would focus, in his presentation, on how the infrastructure plan was attempting to improve access.
Mr Moloi explained that DHA planned to open 30 new offices by 2014. The DHA currently had 506 offices, of which 44 were Regional offices (and 37 of these were known as large District offices), 144 were medium local offices, and 221 were small offices. The DHA also occupied other premises for the purposes of Refugee Reception Offices (RROs), ports of entry, residential premises for its staff and Head Offices in Gauteng. Some offices were leased and some were state owned. He presented a slide of offices, broken down by province (see attached presentation). He noted that currently DHA four head offices, spread across Pretoria, which posed challenges in service delivery, and there was a proposal to move all head office infrastructure into the same premises.
The core process and key objectives for the DHA Infrastructure plan included acquisition of office accommodation, maintenance of office accommodation, lease administration, refurbishment and rehabilitation, and Occupational Health and Safety Act compliance.
There were various challenges facing the DHA in its attempt to increase the footprint. No priority was afforded to the DHA in relation to expeditious conclusion of lease agreements and procurement of Government-owned facilities. DHA felt that it did not get sufficient support from the Department of Public Works (DPW) in acquiring the space that it needed. There was, in the rural areas, a lack of suitable office accommodation, and although there was plenty of land available, it was necessary to engage in slow processes with the traditional chiefs. A possible option was to co-locate with other Departments, for instance in school buildings, which would enable the DHA to bypass the DPW delays and processes. The DHA was currently housed at some magistrate’s offices, but was threatened with eviction.
Overall the DHA was also hampered by lack of funds to procure it own facilities. Although it had been given R110 million to build facilities at border posts, this money was handled by DPW and there were challenges in acquiring WCS numbers from the DPW, in order to build the border post facilities. There were extremely poor facilities in which DHA staff were expected to work at border posts, including former holding cells, and DHA urged that this had to be changed as quickly as possible. He added that there was about R60 million shortfall in the funding for devolution from DPW, and that DHA could therefore not even confirm its funding, which then caused delays in the procurement process. Mr Moloi conceded that the delays between the two departments also caused problems for the DPW as it could not then always procure sites, and the site prices may increase over time if there were substantial delays.
In addition to the building procurement processes, there were also delay in DPW finalising the leases, and so there was a proposal for DHA to take back and complete some of the smaller leases.
The budget also fell short in respect of adequate provision for IT, security services and furniture and equipment for the back offices. Many of the reception areas were up to standard with the new ‘look and feel’ plans, but the back offices were still at a very poor standard.
Mr Moloi outlined the strategic approach to the DHA Infrastructure Plan. He explained that the civil services was prepared to explore various procurement options such as park homes (pre-fabricated structures), the option of Lease-To-Own, sharing of premises, as already outlined, with schools or Local Council offices, purchase of property and accommodation, and Public Private Partnerships, which hopefully would enable DHA to locate its Head Office in a single space.
All of these options depended on the availability of land, and its suitability for purchasing, and the availability of funds. A reprioritisation process was currently in progress. They also depended on the procurement processes of DPW, its contractual negotiations and conclusion of lease agreements, and willingness and commitment of other departments to share premises. He reiterated that there had been difficulties in sharing offices with the magistrates.
The broad DHA Infrastructure Expansion strategy was, in the years up to 2014, to continue the expansion of the DHA footprint to meet the needs of citizens, according to acceptable norms. The norms adopted outlined that nobody should have to travel more than 25km to access Home Affairs offices, except in the Northern Cape, where distances between settlements were greater, and where the norm was 50km.
DHA would have to implement a new and cost effective strategy, to build on achievements to date, and devolve management of infrastructure to provincial managers. The Head Office would determine policy, attend to planning, and provide support at a national level.
Mr Moloi stressed that the ideal number of service delivery points, to meet the standards of access levels, was 744. Currently, there were 407 fixed service delivery points of various sizes, 5 refugee centres, 68 ports of entry, 117 computerised mobile service trucks, and 25 uncomputerised points, using 4x4 vehicles.
Certain criteria had been set to select the offices to be opened from 2011 to 2014. Priority was given to areas where the DHA did not currently have any presence at district or local municipalities, as well as rural areas, and those recommended by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) or Afriscope proposals. In addition, priority was given to areas where a Thusong service centre was already established, areas falling within the Integrated Service and Rural Development Nodes, and finally, areas that were inaccessible to the mobile units, because of hazardous or deficient road infrastructure. DHA currently already had a presence in 60% of Thusong centres.
Another priority was to try to acquire DHA-owned service delivery points, to decrease the current costs of leases. The plan was to build eight additional service delivery points each year, over the next three years. In 2010/11, ten new offices were opened. In 2011/12, four new offices were opened, and a breakdown of the places and names of offices would be sent to Members. He then outlined the provincial spread of the plans to open fifteen new offices in 2012/13, eight new offices in 2013/14 and twelve new offices in 2014/15 (see attached presentation).
Mr Moloi then moved on to explain the outcomes of the “Look and Feel Project”, which, overall, aimed to ensure a conducive working environment for staff members of the DHA, and for the public accessing the DHA services. All DHA offices, both leased and state-owned, had been refurbished, as they had been very dilapidated. 26 offices were refurbished in 2010/11, and eighteen offices in 2011/12. Fifteen would be refurbished in each of the following three years. Some landlords had refurbished the offices that DHA leased, in terms of departmental guidelines, after negotiations that provided for a long term lease once these criteria were met. This involved 89 offices in 2008/9 and eighteen in 2011/12. He tabled a provincial breakdown (see attached presentation) and said he would send the names of these offices.
Mr Moloi assured the Members that money was being well spent, displaying “before and after” pictures of the offices, and of current construction sites at various stages of completion. He outlined the progress on new sites.
Mr Moloi presented the expenditure to date (see attached presentation), noting R598 491 spending on the Look and Feel Project, R25.147 million on municipal services, R95.669 million on leases, R10.336 million on capital works and R2.8 million on planned maintenance. About R11.7 million remained for the Look and Feel Project, and R141,62 million in respect of leases. The current budget included some money which was rolled over from the last financial year, and the lease figure included leases for head offices.
Mr Moloi summarised that the expansion of the DHA footprint was vital to redress the imbalances in access to services by the previously disadvantaged communities, and this would be achieved by use of mobile offices, hospital connectivity, Thusong centres, 4x4s and permanent Service Points. Office refurbishment was critical to the image and creation of a conducive working environment. The DHA was very labour intensive. The constraints remained as budget, given competing priorities for service demand, and dependency on DPW. The master plan took account of staffing, IT and equipment for offices, but there were challenges to the with IT infrastructure because of Telkom copper cables being stolen. Some offices were operating with less than two officials, such as Volksrust, Inanda and Bulwer, and because DHA had been allocated budget for a certain number of people in each year, staffing for the expanded number of offices would be a concern.
Some options to address the challenges could be to reprioritize the strategic priorities and budget, whilst still addressing challenges in the access to services. The DHA could simply continue to open offices in line with the strategic plan, or take a decision to reduce that number. It could refurbish all existing offices in line with the new corporate image and capacitate them to optimal level, whilst suspending the opening of any new offices, but this would compromise access. He summarised that, at the moment, DHA was committed to improving access to services and intended to continue this. It would pursue the self-acquisition option to minimise its dependency on DPW and accelerate the acquisition of office accommodation, whilst also pursuing the option of sharing accommodation. It would continue to try to persuade National Treasury to give additional funding, in line with the business case submitted in August 2010. It would also accelerate the National Population Registration Campaign Strategy, seek to have a presence in, and capacitate all existing Thusong Centres, as well as connecting to Health facilities with maternity wards. It would be engaging with the Ministry and Department of Justice and Constitutional Development on the eviction of DHA from magistrates’ offices. It was negotiating with South African Post Office to lease offices, at a lower-than-market rate, as a cheaper solution, and, in the interim would also consider leasing park homes, and developing the Public Private Partnership model. All the steps that it would take would be in pursuance of the commitment to improve access to services.
Mr M Mnqasela (DA) asked for clarity on what the DHA meant by “using stakeholders” rather than focusing on the footprint. He was concerned that the stakeholder forums might attempt to define Home Affairs policy and development plans.
Mr Moloi addressed the concern about stakeholder forums but noted that they were not a way of changing strategy but were used to see where DHA services were needed. These forums were a form of community engagement, to raise a red flag for areas where the public felt that the DHA was missing out.
Mr Mnqasela recommended that the DHA should not focus on refurbishment of current offices rather than opening new offices. In some areas there were currently no DHA offices. He would, however, support the DHA’s option of engaging with National Treasury. It was vital to ensure that all people in the country were registered.
Mr Moloi stressed that it was important to refurbish current facilities, as well as opening new ones, as it was not good to be opening new facilities where others existed that were not being used optimally.
Mr Mnqasela asked why two different figures – 407 and 409 – had been mentioned for the fixed service points.
Mr Moloi corrected the number of facilities at DHA facilities to 407, not 409.
Mr Mnqasela wanted to know how the capital works budget had been spent. He observed that DHA had already spent most of the budget yet there was still six months remaining in this financial year, was concerned about the implications and suggested that DHA must engage now with National Treasury on a back-up plan.
Mr Moloi said that most of the R10.3 million that had been used so far related to consultancy fees. The DHA would, on a weekly basis, monitor how money was being spent, with DPW, and if the DHA money was being spent accurately. DHA knew that it would not receive sufficient money for all that it wanted to do and therefore must be creative, and use mobile offices and other means to reach the public. It was constantly looking at other models to help keep within the budgets.
Mr M de Freitas (DA) was also worried about the spending to date, noting that the budgeted amount surpassed what had been made available. He doubted that the approach to National Treasury would be successful as every other department was also asking for more money. He was disappointed that not more creative thinking appeared to have been applied and would have supported more Private Public Partnerships, which he suggested should be pursued further.
Mr McIntosh emphasised the need to source the correct extra assistance to reach every rural area, and suggested that this might be done through public/private partnerships.
Mr Moloi confirmed that DHA was aware that funds were not limitless. However, it was possible for DHA to be more creative, so it was trying to use all facilities available to improve the provision of facilities. This also emphasised the importance of the stakeholder forums. He noted that National Treasury must be approached with a budget plan, showing how the services could be fully provided, and why a greater budget was necessary. The plans had received substantial consideration within DHA.
Mr Moloi explained the discrepancies between budget allocated and budget spent, by saying that some funds, although allocated to DHA, had been handed over to DPW in its capacity as the landlord of all public works.
Mr Moloi acknowledged that DHA had limitations in terms of expertise. This was why it had already started working on Public Private Partnerships, as that would achieve a sharing of experiences. DHA was continually looking for more organisations that could teach it more about facilities management, such as PEP Stores, acknowledging the value of input that could then be adopted as part of the DHA strategy.
Mr G McIntosh (COPE) acknowledged the DHA’s huge strides forward in branding under the Look and Feel Project.
Mr McIntosh commented that when the Committee had visited service facilities in KwaZulu Natal, Members had observed that many of the mobile stations lacked operational IT services. He suggested that the DHA mobile office follow the Department of Social Security example of having consistent times and places where services could be accessed.
Mr McIntosh said the ultimate aim of any department should be to become paperless and move into high-tech services, so that having self-service machines and finger printing facilities would improve efficiency and create new jobs although it might reduce the overall administrative staff component. He wondered how DHA computed the minimum number of people to staff an office, whether it had contacted those in the facilities management business, if it was considering reinforcing the mobile systems for rural areas, and if it had done any market research into shifts of population and to map when demographic changes demanded the opening of new offices.
Mr M de Freitas (DA) agreed with that automation would be a way of speeding up services and asked if this was being looked into.
Mr de Freitas asked how an office of less than three people could provide a service, how these offices were being run and how the area was being facilitated.
Mr Moloi confirmed that DHA had adopted a policy of having a number of staff according to the number of people in the area. The department had commissioned a study to see if organization was still relevant and if three people could run it. The department was aware of these problems and this study would allow the department to engage scientifically and thoroughly. DHA was trying to think more creatively. As it modernised its offices, it would simultaneously try to upskill people so that no one was made redundant, and jobs would not be lost. He repeated that studies were being conducted to ensure that all DHA offices had sufficient staff to cope with the number of people they were serving.
Mr McIntosh questioned the possibility of DHA taking over its own facilities management, and said that DPW, if it was functioning efficiently, would be the ideal department to provide all the services for the DHA, as it had centuries of institutional memory in public works.
Mr De Freitas (DA) observed that this was the fourth time or more where the DPW services were raised as a challenge, and he felt strongly that this Committee should call a meeting with DPW, and try to find a way out of the problem. He disagreed with Mr McIntosh that the DPW would be the ideal department to handle facilities management.
Ms F Mathebe (ANC) observed that her municipality was over 50km from a Home Affairs office. She felt that far too much was spent on leasing premises and agreed that the DHA should focus on buying its own buildings, thereby reducing lease costs.
Ms Mathebe suggested that the “No Man’s Land” at all ports of entry could be used as a Home Affairs service point, and suggested negotiations with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries on this issue.
Mr Cecil Sols, Representative, Department of Home Affairs, defined “No Mans Land” as a piece of land used by two countries as a port of entry. The DHA was currently in discussions with Mozambique to create a one-stop border post between the two countries, as a pilot project, and if this worked well, it would be extended to other SADC countries. He believed that South Africa was working well in joint operations with immediate neighbours on issues affecting their borders, such as illegal migration.
Mr de Freitas asked if the improvements and development in the infrastructure and the refurbishments to Home Affairs offices were ever mentioned in publicity campaigns, and if local communities were made aware of the mobile offices.
Mr Moloi explained that there was no conscious marketing on the progress of the DHA, but the forums allowed the DHA to liaise with the public on its projects.
Mr de Freitas also referred to the note that Telkom was posing challenges and advised that alternatives must be sought.
Mr Moloi explained that the IT connectivity was a challenge and said DHA had entered into an agreement to improve the connectivity of the mobile offices, but there were issues with satellite connectivity. DHA fully recognised the need to address connectivity in the long term. He also noted that DHA was planning to replace the mobile offices with equipment that was better able, in the long term, to cope with the challenges of terrain, such as more 4x4 vehicles.
Ms N Mnisi (ANC) suggested that the DHA could well tap into the abundance of land from the traditional chiefs. The DHA clearly needed to address the imbalance in the rural areas, and place a greater focus on assisting rural people. She believed that it was not necessary to go for costly premises, but that schools and clinics could be used. She asked if the access model for service delivery in the rural area had been noted and how was it being implemented.
Mr Sols outlined that the challenge was that in order to implement the access model in full, more than double the current funding would be required. That was why DHA was considering other options such as mobile offices, and SMS options, although ultimately DHA knew that the access would have to be addressed in full.
On the issue of sharing, Mr Moloi explained that some DHA offices had been situated in large Department of Justice buildings, but the problem was that these offices had fallen into disrepair, and it was a challenge to refurbish the entire building. DHA had to engage with the Department of Justice to see how they could make offices meet the needs of the Look and Feel Project.
Ms Mnisi asked why there was no mention in the slides of the offices in Mpumalanga. She agreed that DHA should provide the Committee with names of offices, rather than merely listing the provincial numbers.
The Chairperson repeated that it was vital that rural areas had access to DHA services. She did not agree with the suggestion to use Park homes as offices, as they were not suitable for people in inclement weather.
Mr Moloi acknowledged her warning on Park Homes and said DHA would move away from that option.
Mr Moloi acknowledged that the DHA had, in the past, focused on rural rather than urban areas and understood that the issues in rural areas were often more serious than in the urban areas.
The Chairperson asked about the future of the two offices next to each other in Johannesburg, which were constructed during the apartheid regime, but that were now playing the same role. She enquired whether the DHA was building a permanent office in Soweto as she believed the current one was only temporary.
Mr Moloi explained that the DHA had three offices in Soweto and would open another one on the east side of the Mall, so there was full coverage across Soweto.
Mr Mnqasela stated that he was not satisfied with the earlier response about where capital works money was being spent, and asked for further explanation on this. He reiterated his concern that already a large portion of the budget had been spent, and asked how the DHA would cope if there were a major disaster.
Mr M De Freitas also reiterated his question about how the Department was able to budget for a higher amount than they were allocated.
Mr M Moloi explained that “amount budgeted” meant the amount allocated for infrastructure, maintenance and municipal services. He would send in a written response on the issue of budgeting for disaster, as this was not within his area of expertise.
Mr Moloi reiterated that the DHA could not continue to lease premises. It had spent R237 million on leases but only R42 million on capital works, which was skewed, and it must move from spending on leases to more on capital works, by building its own facilities. It was intended that the Market Street office in Johannesburg would become the premier Permitting Office. The lease for the Provincial Office in Gauteng would expire in May 2013, and then the Provincial Office would be moved to Market Street.
The meeting was adjourned.