The Researcher for the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs briefed the Committee on the 2013 State of the Nation Address and how it impacted on the Department of Home Affairs. The 2013 State of the Nation Address outlined the following key priorities with an impact on the Department of Home Affairs: youth employment, education, the Presidential Remuneration Commission, the representation of women in half of all decision-making structures, fighting corruption, and social cohesion. The State of the Nation Address specified the need for all initiatives to fall in line with the National Development Plan. Certain National Development Plan priorities related directly to Home Affairs such as creating jobs, improving education and training, building a capable state, fighting corruption, enhancing accountability, and transforming society and uniting the nation.
During the discussion, Members suggested that perhaps it would be better to evaluate the work of Home Affairs in terms of the National Development Plan, rather than in terms of the President’s speech itself. If all Departments evaluated themselves that way, they would all move in the same direction. The need to track the Combating of Human Trafficking Bill during its passage through the National Council of Provinces was also highlighted as well as tracking the Department of Home Affairs’ progress on a monthly basis, especially in its anti-corruption fight.
Home Affairs’ Perspective on 2013 State of Nation Address (SONA)
Mr Adam Salmon, Researcher for the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, said there were six highlights in the SONA, none with a specific link to the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs:
▪ youth employment,
▪ the Presidential Remuneration Commission,
▪ representation of women in half of all decision-making structures,
▪ fighting corruption, and
▪ social cohesion.
The President had discussed the need for a skilled and capable workforce and the significance of quickly filling vacancies and recruiting scarce skills to stimulate job creation. Since the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) had a youth development program, the President’s remarks on “transformation and change” should be noted. Only half of the available positions in government had been filled, not three-quarters, as promised. This had been confirmed by oversight in the provinces. In addition, according to the Presidential Scorecard on National Departments, the DHA human resource and competency fell below the national public service average for diversity. Regulations to import scarce skills had not been implemented yet. The Department of Home Affairs had become notorious for its lack of service, security, and professionalism. Under the former minister, the DHA had conducted a skills audit in 2010 and recruited thirty training specialists. As a result, the Department was named the most improved employer in 2012. There were a number of initiatives in place to broaden the horizons of the training academy, including a management leadership development program. The implications of the 2013 SONA for the DHA included dealing with the shortages and struggles to keep staff members, particularly at management level. As there were so few trained managers, there was great competition between government and the private sector and even between government departments for these individuals. According the Presidential Scorecard on National Departments, Home Affairs received a one out of four rating for employment. There was a need to decentralize recruitment and provide motivation to fill vacancies. The DHA had been understaffed for a number of years. This problem could either be solved through the budget or through action. Another recurring problem was artisan work. The government trained artisans, but since the private sector paid more, often times artisans decided to work in the private sector.
The representation of women was another key focus, particularly because South Africa was working to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2014. There were guidelines and the DHA had to report its progress regularly. Of the 219 management positions filled in the DHA, over 50% were women. One third of the top management positions were women. Overall, the DHA was doing quite well in terms of gender, but there was room for improvement for the top management positions. In order to improve, more women in middle management position need to be recruited and women need to be prioritized during training. In addition, increased recruitment and promotion of people with disabilities was needed.
The DHA had been quite active on the fifth priority, fighting corruption, particularly for the past year or two. Its corruption prevention plan had been approved, but we had not seen the plan yet. The 2012 SONA mentioned online verification and improved timeliness for state licences and there was potential for biometrics to be incorporated. It helps to hold people accountable and there had been a reduction in referrals from different departments.
Like the 2012 SONA, the 2013 SONA emphasized heritage, building a proud South African nation, and ubuntu. The "South Africa at heart" movement spread values like guaranteeing the right of South Africans and foreigners and encouraging richness and strength in diversity. In conclusion, there was a need to not duplicate initiatives related to immigration and refugee policy debates, the protection of certain vulnerable groups, and the controversy over scarce skills. The theme of the 2013 Parliament was “socio-economic development through oversight and public participation.”
Parliament would need to continue monitoring the adherence of all sections of the Department in terms of filling of vacancies particularly of the youth, in the age group 20-25 years of age. Improvement at head office to expedite the recruitment process was however still needed as per the indications received during oversight by Parliament in the provinces. Decentralisation of recruitment of more senior level positions to provinces should also be monitored. The outputs and functioning of the DHA Learning Academy and expansion of its courses to include migration, research and citizenship, must be overseen.
The DHA must be encouraged to submit applications to the Presidential Remuneration Commission to prevent high turnover and unfilled high-skilled positions. The impact on the budget of the DHA and its entities, given possible higher pay levels must then be monitored in relation to service delivery. One needed to make a stronger case for prioritised remuneration review, given the need to reduce the continued backlogs in both Immigration and Civic Services, and the negative impact this was having on attracting scarce skills.
In conclusion, the researcher said that the DHA needs to brief Parliament on its revised Corruption and Fraud Prevention Plan. The participation and input of the Minister of Home Affairs and the DHA in the social cohesion initiatives of government were needed, with particular emphasis on improving perceptions of and integration of refugees and skilled migrants.
The Chairperson thanked the researcher for his briefing. She noted that the National Development Plan or the trafficking issue had been elaborated on by the researcher and said that the Committee would be looking at the passage of the Combating of Human Trafficking Bill through the NCOP. She asked how the Bill affected the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs.
Mr G Mc Intosh (COPE) asked Mr Salmon to explain a potential disparity in the report. The report notes that given general budget shortages within Government, only 55% of the approved positions of the DHA establishment had actually been funded. Later, however, the report notes that in addition, the Department reported 1035 posts filled additional to their approved establishment.
He noted his interest in the Home Affairs National Identification System (HANIS). When speaking to officials running HANIS last year, only 30 million people were in the system, but according to the report, as of 27 January, over 35 million people were in the system. The programme’s progress benefited the country and the department.
Mr M De Freitas (DA) thanked the researcher. He noted the importance of discussing youth employment, the issuing of ID books, the DHA’s relationship with the Portfolio Committee/Department on Economic Development as well as the Portfolio Committee/Department of Labour. He suggested that the Committee create a spreadsheet to monitor the Department of Home Affairs progress on a monthly basis, especially in tracking the anti-corruption fight. This would ensure that the National Development Plan goals and the other goals laid out in 2013 SONA were met.
Mr M Mnqasela (DA, Western Cape) thanked the researcher. He noted the lack of emphasis in spearheading the process of meeting the threshold of hiring 2% of people with disabilities. Presently, the Department had only 0.2%. Hiring people with disabilities could be challenging because disabilities were different and job requirements were different. This hiring process must be taken seriously. It was important to check if the people training others were equipped to do so. It was important to consider race while working to retain scarce skills. He suggested that the Committee engage urgently the Public Service Association (PSA), to synchronize ideas and confront issues head-on. Otherwise, when we roll out the smart ID card, we may discover gaps or serious challenges if the people working on the smart ID card project leave for jobs in the private sector.
Mr Salmon thanked the Members for their questions and comments. He said that the President did mention specifically the National Development Plan. He offered to amend the briefing document to include how Home Affairs relates to the National Development Plan. In terms of performance progress monitoring, key points were incorporated as a part of the strategic plans of Committees, but Committees usually fell behind with monitoring. To answer Mr McIntosh, the first paragraph was on 2012 and the second paragraph mentioned was on 2011, since comparable data was not available. The 55% funded positions referred to the ones that were paid from funds specifically designated for full-time positions. For all full-time positions in the establishment, the Department only got just over half of the money they needed and so they had to prioritize. In 2011, as a way to circumvent the lack of funding, they tend to recruit part-time consultants, as opposed to full-time workers. That was why the 30% figure was additional to the funded posts. The other point about the learning academy was a good idea, but their research was likely to be done later in the year. Perhaps the Committee should do that later in the year. The Trafficking Bill and the National Prosecuting Authority were not mentioned in the speech, but were part of their priorities anyway and were part of the National Development Plan.
Ms G Bothman (ANC) said that the briefing did not fully capture the strength of the President’s speech. She noted the overlap between the National Development Plan and the speech itself. She suggested that perhaps it would be better to evaluate the work of Home Affairs in terms of the National Development Plan, rather than in terms of the President’s speech itself. If all Departments evaluated themselves that way, they would all move in the same direction. . The Committee should request the DHA to present what they did specifically in reaction to the 2011 SONA. Then the Committee would discuss what the Department did in response to the 2012 SONA. Finally, the Committee and the Department could plan what to do next, in light of the 2013 SONA.
The Chairperson asked if anyone else had input to offer.
Mr McIntosh commented on his support for legislation to criminalise gender-related crime.
The Chairperson noted that the issue of gender-related crime was addressed in the SONA and in the briefing document. She said that there should be a meeting later in the year to determine what had been achieved to reduce gender-related crime and what had not been achieved.
Mr Adam Salmon commented that he had not heard of any proposed legislation in his research.
The Chairperson raised the issue of combating human trafficking and suggested that it be discussed at a later meeting. On a Friday, the Committee could discuss further their strategic plan. Before they dealt with 2012, they must discuss the Department’s business in 2011. The Committee had begun a correspondence with the Minister of Foreign Affairs from Uganda about elections issues. The Committee had agreed to host a visit by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and other officials from Uganda.
Mr De Freitas suggested that the Committee take advantage of this opportunity to learn from the Ugandans as well. When a delegation from Botswana visited, it was very rushed. He suggested that the Committee plan a lunch, get to know the Ugandans better, and make them feel welcome, especially because they were a part of the African continent. He also suggested that the IEC be present at the meeting.
The Chairperson announced that the Committee was in agreement to host the visit.
The meeting was adjourned.
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