Social Security Applications: briefing by Home Affairs

Social Development

11 June 2002
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Meeting report

PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
12 June 2002
SOCIAL SECURITY APPLICATIONS: BRIEFING BY HOME AFFAIRS


Chairperson: Mr Saloojee

Documents handed out:
Briefing by Mr Billy Masethla, Director-General of Home Affairs on Levels of Service Delivery Regarding Social Security Applications (Appendix)

SUMMARY
The Chief Director briefed the Committee on behalf of the Director General. He focused on plans to establish containers that would temporarily serve as home affairs offices in places where such offices were not available. The discussion was based on the problems of incapacity and lack of service delivery in existing home affairs offices.

MINUTES
The following delegates form the Department of Home Affairs were present:
- Mr Chabalala, Chief Director
- Mr Delport, Regional Director in KwaZulu-Natal
- Mr Mamabolo, Director in the Head Offices
- Mr Ndima, Regional Director in Orange Free State
-Ms Makola, Regional Director in Gauteng
-Ms Mgxashe, Regional Director in Western Cape
-Mr Zita, Regional Director in Mpumalanga

The Chief Director, Mr Chabalala made the presentation on behalf of Mr B Masethla, the Director General. The presentation outlined the Department of Home Affairs' plans to ensure that "under-resourced communities had access to Home Affairs services for the purpose of social security application." The initiatives involved three aspects. Firstly, to secure freight containers that would be converted into offices that would facilitiate some home affairs services. Secondly private-public partnerships have developed the idea of containers. Lastly, an outreach programme would be implemented to make communities aware of initiatives.

Please refer to briefing by Mr Billy Masethla in Appendix.


Discussion
Mr da Camara (DP) informed the committee and the delegates that one office of the Department of Home Affairs in Feni, in Mpumalanga was permanently closed because no officials could operate it. How would the containers be staffed if there was a shortage of staff to run the closed offices.

Mr Zita had no idea that the office was closed, instead he knew of a reopened office in Mpuluzi in Mpumalanga.

Mr da Camara had no idea of the Mpuluzi office and insisted on the one in Feni. The Chairperson resolved the issue by asking the Department of Home Affairs in Mpumalanga to follow up the Feni and Mpuluzi offices.

Mr da Camara (DP) complained that there was a problem of communication breakdown between the Department of Home Affairs and other government departments especially within the social cluster. He asked the delegates to comment on his complaint.

Mr Mamabolo informed the committee that the Department of Home Affairs had regular meetings with the Department of Social Development at Regional Directorate level.

Mr Chabalala added there were interdepartmental arrangements within the social cluster and he made an example of the Child Support Grant project which he said was under discussion in the social cluster.
The Chairperson was not satisfied with the answer and demanded the Department of Home Affairs to list concrete arrangements that were reached in the social cluster discussions.

Mr Mgxashe said that they had a rollout plan with time frames for public awareness on registration for social security grants. He added that the plan could be availed to the committee on request.

Ms Tsheole (ANC) reiterated the complaint about lack of communication between the Department of Home Affairs and other departments in the social cluster. She then pointed out to a practical contradiction in the presentation. The contradiction was that Mr Masethla's presentation stated that service containers would start working on the 22 July 2002 in Kwazulu-Natal and yet earlier the presentation stated that regions had to first give an input on where the containers could be situated.

Ms Tsheole noted that because regions had made no inputs, it was useless to set the exact date.

Ms Tsheole (ANC) enquired how the Department of Home Affairs made the public aware of its social security applications initiatives.

Ms Southgate (ACDP) asked how the Department of Home Affairs was communicating its social security application initiatives in Orange Free State.

Mr Mgxashe listed the Internet, the monthly newsletters and radio broadcast as means to publicise the initiative. He added that the newsletters and pamphlets were in all eleven languages.

Ms Gandhi (ANC) asked if the Department of Home Affairs was involved in the One Stop Service Centre.

Mr Vriek promised that the Department of Home Affairs will be found in all Multipurpose Communication Centers (MPCC).


Ms Gandhi (ANC) could not understand how KwaZulu-Natal had a small number of containers yet it was a large province.

Mr Delport explained that there were other twenty-nine units project to augment the container services. He said that the Home Affairs services would be established within the Traditional Affairs Offices of KwaZulu-Natal.


Ms Gandhi (ANC) complained that there was a delay of application response by the Department of Home Affairs and that at times identity documents come back with incorrect information.

Mr Mgxashe agreed that at times there were human errors on the part of the Department of Home Affairs. Secondly, he reminded the committee that the Department of Home Affairs had inherited a system that had many irregularities and errors in data punching. Finally he emphasised that such errors could only be known and rectified if someone come to report them.

Ms Ramotsamai (ANC) commented that even though people went back to rectify mistakes with the Department of Home Affairs, their documents still come back with incorrect information.

Dr Baloyi (IFP) said that it took eighteen moths to have the Department of Home Affairs amend his identity document.

Prof Mbadi (UDM) asked how fake marriages took place.

Mr Mashokwe explained two ways that the Department of Home Affairs knew so far. The first one was fraud by both 'marrying' individuals in which one of them was paid by the other to be an accomplice. The second one was a syndicate fraud in which Department of Home Affairs officials married people on computer files with no legal documents to attest to the marriage. He added that the Department of Home Affairs was involved in Operation Moloto with the South Africa Police Services and the Department of Justice to arrest culprits and summarily annul fake marriages without court proceedings. He informed the committee that more than thirty officials who were found guilty of fake marriages were arrested and discharged of their duties.

Prof. Mbadi (UDM) asked the delegates to explain what was meant by "joint outreach service delivery programme".

Mr Van Jaarsveld (NNP) asked if the containers were permanent or ad hoc.

Mr Vriek said that they were only a medium term solution.

The Chairperson read a critical article by The Star newspaper dated 10 June 2002, entitled "It's the Home Affairs Blues". The article was reporting on the bad delivery on lack of staff competence in the offices of home affairs in Market street, Johannesburg. He asked the delegates to comment on the article particularly where it stated that Mr Mgxashe denied any existence of backlogs.

Ms Makola agreed with the situation that was presented by the article. She however, defended the office by stating that the committee visited the office and on three occasions the Department of Home Affairs asked the committee to do something yet nothing was done. She explained the staff moral was low because of poor working conditions. She said that the solution was not to employ more staff but to computerise the office so that more work could be processed quicker than the usual pace. She insisted that officials in the offices were doing their best to get the work done.

Mr Mgxashe explained that when he said that there were no backlogs he meant that the office of Mr Chabalala had no complaints of backlog.

Mr Mamabolo added that the right procedure was to lodge complaints with Mr Chabalala and not the media.

The Chairperson interjected by pointing out that he had often witnessed lack of service delivery in the Johannesburg office.

Mr Van Jaarsveld (NNP) interjected and questioned the feasibility of operating the containers if the biggest home affairs office in Johannesburg was itself under-resourced.

Mr Mgxashe agreed that the office in Johannesburg was the biggest in the country yet it was the worst in terms of capacity.

Mr Chabalala added that even though the Johannesburg office was bad it was best in comparison with other offices around the country.

Mr Vriek defended the department by pointing out that the committee should take into account of the fact that the Department of Home Affairs was under funded an was not previously designed to cater for a population of 40 million people. He also added that even at grassroots level, the infrastructure was not distributed according to the population density and distribution.

Ms Ramotsamai (ANC) commented that the requirements for application for social security were creating barriers for most people to benefit from social security grants.

Mr Mamabolo explained that it was the responsibility of the applicant to provide all necessary documents or proof before the application could be processed.

The Chairperson interjected that the issue needed to be looked at both sides because the previous system was largely responsible for most people not having necessary documents to access social security benefits.

Ms. Ramotsamai (ANC) asked why the Western Cape had no plans to have the containers.

Ms Mgxashe explained that the region did not need the containers because it had mobiles and had just opened a home affairs office in Outshoorn and that plans were under way to build another one in Khayelitsha. She added that most of the population in the Western Cape lived within the Cape Metropolitan and could access the home affairs offices easily.

Ms Chalmers (ANC) informed the house that there were once effective but expensive home affairs mobile offices in Eastern Cape. She suggested that the Department of Home Affairs and Department of Social Development could collaborate to reinstate the service because the Department of Social Development still made visits to the country side in the Eastern Cape.

Ms Chalmers (ANC) asked when the Department of Home Affairs would be in a position to enable people to communicate with them about follow up with their applications for social security grants.

Dr Baloyi (IFP) pointed out that the conditions in the rural areas usually needed more infrastructure that in the urban areas. He asked if the Department of Home Affairs had the budget for the extra infrastructure that might be needed with the erection of the containers.

Ms Rajbally (MF) complained about the inconvenience experienced by the community of Chatsworth because of the closure of the Chatsworth's home affairs offices in KwaZulu-Natal and added that the Department of Home Affairs had not yet responded to her written complaint.

Mr Delport explained that the home affairs services were previously provided by the Department of Justice which had stopped the services and hence the closure. He however, informed the committee that plans were underway to build a district home affairs offices in Chatsworth.

Ms Rajbally (MF) was pleased to learn about the plans. She asked how people could share an identity document number.

Mr Mamabolo explained that it should not happen that way unless one of them was fraudulent or had been tempered with.

Ms Tsheole (ANC) added that the problem was common in cases where people shared names.

Mr Mamabolo said that the primary verification was fingerprints which could only be checked on people over the age of sixteen.

Ms Southgate (ACDP) asked about the difference between "containers" and "envisaged offices" in the table from the presentation.

Ms Southgate wanted the Department of Home Affairs to explain their service delivery goals of establishing the containers. Mr Vriek explained that accessibility was the Department of Home Affair's goal. He added that the Department of Home Affairs conformed to the service delivery standards set out in Batho Pele White Paper.

Ms Tsheole (ANC) commented that in her constituency there seemed to be a competent home affairs services, notwithstanding some problems of course. She suggested that the Department of Home Affairs should form strong ties in the social cluster to discuss and solve budgetary service delivery problems.

The Chairperson asked if the Department of Home Affairs had done any research on the percentage of unregistered children in South Africa.

Mr Mamabolo said that there was no such research done , but that the Human Science Research Council and the Department of Health were contemplating such a study.

The Chairperson asked if the Department of Home Affairs had any knowledge of the Mount Frere interdepartmental task team on child registration in Eastern Cape. A representative from the Department of Social Development said that the report was available.

Dr Jassat commented about the loss of application forms of a company that wanted to open a diamond polishing firm in South Africa. He was concerned that such carelessness about documents could forfeit the country some investment.

The Chairperson asked the Department of Home Affairs to follow the issue. Mr Chabalala agreed.

Ms Makusi related an unfinished story of a fake marriage. The Chairperson asked the Department of Home Affairs to follow it up. Mr Chabalala agreed.

The meeting was adjourned.

Appendix
BRIEFING BY MR BILLY MASETHLA, DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF HOME AFFAIRS ON LEVELS OF SERVICE DELIVERY REGARDING SOCIAL SECURITY APPLICATIONS

Chairperson and members of the Portfolio Committee of Social Development.

I thank you, for allowing me the opportunity of briefing you on the Department of Home Affairs' pro-active initiatives to ensure that under resourced communities have access to Home Affairs services for the purpose of social security applications. The Department has acknowledged that people living in marginalised communities have difficulty in accessing social security benefits due to a lack of enabling documentation. This problem is especially serious in rural areas where poverty levels are high and access to information and resources are limited.

The importance of this highly sensitive issue has been highlighted by the President in his State of the Nation address where he called for a national partnership in support of potential beneficiaries of social grants, which underlines the commitment of Government to improve the conditions of the most vulnerable sectors of our population. The President further stated that in its program for the medium-term, Government has targeted the registration of 3 million children potentially eligible for grants by the year 2005.

In line with the above, the Department of Home Affairs' involvement in this initiative can be summarised as follows: In the provinces Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo Province, North West, Northern Cape and Free State there are already interdepartmental agreements in place for purposes of social security applications.

In some provinces programmes are already in place and operational e.g. joint outreach service delivery programmes with the Department of Social Development in Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga to provide marginalised South African citizens with enabling documents. In other instances budgets are in the process of being approved by the provincial Social Development Departments.

Arrangements are also in place at Home Affairs Head Office within the Chief Directorate: Civic Services to prioritise social services applications.

The following strategies are planned to enhance these initiatives. The Department of Home Affairs has, in its drive to provide its services to all South African citizens, expanded into public/private partnerships, which have given birth to the concept of container offices. Through partnership with a private company the Department has currently secured the required 147 freight containers to be converted into alternative office accommodation.

The issue of equitable redistribution and decentralisation of offices will definitely be effectively addressed by the container office concept. This will also on the other hand deal with ensuring that under-resourced communities have access to Home Affairs services.

The container offices will serve the same purpose as a service point but probably provide service on more permanent bases. Currently a prototype container is in place and operational at Matsamo, Mpumalanga.

An ongoing needs assessment is currently being carried out by our office on equitable redistribution of these offices. The Department will be guided by inputs from Regions on where these containers should be placed. Regions were guided to consider the following in the task of distribution:

Population density
Distance to and from offices
Availability or non-availability of transport to and from offices
Infrastructure development
Economic growth
Attainment of equity
People movement to and from urban areas, etc.

The purpose of this project is to provide suitable office accommodation in especially remote rural and marginalised urban areas of the country where access to services is difficult due to geographical and logistical reasons.

For the purpose of the registration project, the container offices due to their mobility will be rotated based on service delivery needs.

Preliminary needs assessment

REGIONS

CONTAINERS

ENVISAGED OFFICES

Kwazulu-Natal

9

10

Mpumalanga

20

5

Gauteng East

1

6

North West

9

5

Eastern Cape

32

4

Free-State

4

4

Northern Cape

20

24

Gauteng West

7

2

Limpopo Province

45

34

Western Cape

0

0

 

 

 

Total -

147

94


The Department is also involved in agreements with local and traditional authorities to assist with accommodation in places and areas where there are no Home Affairs offices. The same criteria for the placement of containers are being used to determine where facilities of local and traditional authorities, when available, should be utilised.

The service points functioning due to this initiative are operating under the guardianship of the Department's nearest regional or district office who on their side, where possible, collect applications from and deliver documents to these service points on a daily basis.

In KwaZulu-Natal 29 such service points will start operating in traditional authority offices as from 22 July 2002.

There are 55 traditional authorities in Mpumalanga. By the recent instrumentality of the Premier, all the chiefs have pledged their full co-operation in making facilities available for purposes of service points. Operations will commence in due course at most of these offices.

In the Free State 74 service points are already in operation in offices of local authorities.

Of the 56 traditional authorities in Limpopo, there are already 22 service points in operation where traditional authority offices are being utilised.

Furthermore the Department is looking towards launching a vigorous national awareness campaign in educating, informing and highlighting the critical need to register births of children in order to have enabling documents to qualify for the privileges of citizenship.

The above pro-active initiatives are tangible and fundamental examples of how serious the Department is on reaching out to our people and fulfilling the Government's electoral mandate and delivering services to rural and marginalised areas.

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