The Department of Home Affairs (DHA), accompanied by the Deputy Minister, Ms Fatima Chohan, presented its Budget Vote and Strategic Plan for the 2013/14 financial year. At the outset, she highlighted some of the achievements and campaigns. The DHA was working continuously on campaigns to have all births registered within 30 days and would be stopping its Late Registration of Births facility. DHA also continued to encourage all those 16 and over to get identity documents. The Identity Smart Card would be launched by July, but the rollout for everyone would be done incrementally over the next five years. Cabinet had agreed with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees that Angola was now stable enough for refugees to return, and DHA would be working with that country to find durable solutions; either the refugees could opt to return, with assistance from both governments, or they would have to apply formally for work permits in South Africa. The numbers of refugees and asylum seekers was dropping but there were still economic migrants who were attempting to use this route. DHA was working with neighbouring countries to get them to share the burden of refugees. DHA was trying to reach a positive skills migration trend of around 50 000 migrants per year. It was still working on reducing fraud and had introduced high-security forms and permits whose paper changed colour when tampered with. DHA was attempting to develop disciplined professional officials and had introduced specially geared training courses for cadets. Vetting was an ongoing issue, although the DHA was dependent on the Department of State Security. It was working on building secure and integrated platforms and systems. It was on track to achieve targets for births registered within 30 days, and facilities connected for online registration. The budget for the previous year was R5.2 billion, of which 99.5% was spent. DHA had worked hard to cut costs and find more money to deal with deportation.
Members were appreciative of the presentation, although some Members indicated that it was not specific enough about provincial issues, and requested provincial breakdowns of several figures, which the DHA promised to send on. They were pleased with developments on the Smart Card and asked if the target was achievable, and if the smart cards could be used for the following year’s elections. They asked for further information on the work on immigration and refugee policies, the status of the land borders, why the current control systems would continue to be used, and the reasons for rises in office accommodation costs. Members asked for more detail on the filling of vacancies and the skills and cadet programme and what DHA was doing to achieve disability employment targets. They asked for an explanation of the low spending in the “Who Am I Online” programme, and how costs would be cut. Questions were asked on how the DHA intended to deal with the children of Lesotho nationals, who had lived in South Africa all their lives, yet could not obtain citizenship, and children of former soldiers in other countries. They cited the ongoing problems with bogus marriages to foreigners and wondered if that could be curtailed. They urged DHA to work closely with other departments and deal with the question of home births, and wondered why some mobile office services had been withdrawn. Suggestions were made that DHA must attend to its Sterkspruit and Johannesburg offices, which were poorly run. although they had been necessary because they serviced rural areas, and asked why permanent residence permits were taking so long to issue. They urged that corruption must be dealt with, particularly at lower employee levels.
The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting, especially the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Ms Fatima Chohan.
Ms Chohan thanked the Chairperson, and apologised that the Minister, Ms Naledi Pandor, and the Director-General, Mr Mkuseli Apleni, were unable to attend because they were attending the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) meeting at this time. She also noted that the Chief Financial Officer had also been required at that meeting, but she was accompanied to this meeting by the Chief Director: Budgets, who would be able to take Members through the financial statements.
Ms Chohan set out some highlights of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA or the Department) and noted that the budget vote was shortly to be debated in the National Assembly (NA). For the year 2013/14, the Department had been allocated R6.7 billion. The Department was busy with the National Population Registration Campaign in order to register all births, and had managed to bring 40 health institutions on line in this year. The number of babies registered within 30 days went up from 556 000 to 602 000, which was a 6% increase year-on year. The Department was happy with this positive trajectory, but not completely satisfied and would be asking the provinces to work on improving the campaign. There was also an ongoing campaign to get all 16-year olds to obtain Identity Documents (IDs). There was good progress on this, but once again, there was more that could be done.
The Minister noted that the issuing of duplicate or forged IDs was still a problem. Since 2009, the Department had been on a mission to clean up the National Population Register to get rid of duplicate IDs, among other things. The number of duplicates had been reduced, from around 500 000 in 2009 to around 20 000 today. The Minister had announced that the duplicates would be cancelled by the end of this year. These continued to be a huge threat, as the Department was moving to a new system and did not want to carry over corrupted information.
The allowance for late registration of births (LRB) was to end by the 2015/16 financial year, as announced by the Minister. There would be a process for the aberrations, but it would not be an open-ended one.
The DHA was refurbishing its offices to the new style and look. Another 23 offices would be refurbished this coming year. This was part of its aim to improve the quality of services.
There had been a substantial decline in the numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers. This was partially due to the DHA’s plan for providing an adjudicated result on the same day to people coming into the offices. This would also help in removing people who were not genuine refugees and asylum seekers from the country, who were instead entering the country for economic reasons, and putting them on the track to apply for work permits. Another reason for the lower numbers was the increased co-operation with neighbouring countries, who were also signatories to the international conventions on refugees – in particular, Mozambique and Zimbabwe – to encourage several countries to bear the burden of refugees equitably. The number of asylum applications had declined from 300 000 in the 2009/2010 financial year to 85 000 in the current financial year. This was part of a trend and the numbers were rapidly normalising.
Cabinet had recently declared, in line with other member countries of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), its compliance with the cessation of refugee status for Angolans. The reason was that the situation in Angola had normalised since the civil war. According to the Refugees Act, Act 130 of 1998, the Standing Committee on Refugee Affairs (SCRA) had the power to reverse refugee status on any grounds. One of these was that the material conditions in the country of origin had changed favourably. The declaration by the Cabinet had two effects. Firstly, the South African government agreed with the UNHCR recommendation that Angola was no longer a country producing genuine refugees. Secondly, this allow the DHA to find durable solutions for those individuals whose refugee status could be reversed by SCRA. There was now a deadline of 31 August 2013 for the process. Angolan refugees could choose to opt for voluntary return to Angola, and this would be assisted, by a joint effort by the South African and Angolan governments and the UNHCR. Others may choose to take up Angolan citizenship but choose to remain in South Africa, if they were students, business people or individuals with scarce skills. Once these people had received their documents from the Angolan embassy, they would then be dealt with according to the normal provisions of the Immigration Act and immigration regime.
In the year ahead, high-security forms and permits would be introduced to get rid of fraud. These would be printed for the Department on special paper, with watermarks and inks, which discoloured when attempts were made to tamper with it.
The Minister had announced the launch of the ID smart card. The first batch would be issued in July. The Department was quite excited about this and was confident that it would indeed happen then, after all the delays. However, not all offices would issue the cards, as not all of them were online. The process would start slowly and would speed up over the next five years.
Department of Home Affairs Annual Performance Plan 2013 to 2016
Mr Vusi Mkhize, Deputy-Director-General: Civic Services, Department of Home Affairs, presented the Annual Performance Plan. He repeated some of the ongoing work that the Minister had mentioned, but also added other plans, highlighting the following:
- The registration of every child birth within 30 days of delivery
- The issuing of identity documents to every South African 16 years and above.
- The country aimed to realise a positive skills migration trend of around 50 000 migrants per year
He noted that these were incorporated into the performance agreement that the Minister had signed with the President.
He also noted that the DHA had eight transformation strategies. It aimed, amongst others, to develop a cadre of disciplined, professional officials, to establish a world-class Academy and the culture and practice of constant learning. It would be working on building a platform and systems that were secure and integrated. The DHA would be following modernisation drives and pursuing efficient, secure processes for its work.
Mr Mkhize noted that the Human Resources (HR) strategy sought to position the DHA as an employer of choice. One of the priorities was acquiring the right people for the job and this involved vetting of candidate and appointees. A cadet programme would be developed and rolled out.
DHA was on track to achieve the annual target of 594 000 births registered within 30 days and this would represent an increase of 6% compared to the figure of births registered within this time in the previous year. The annual target of 80 additional health facilities connected for online registration was also likely to be achieved, which should also assist in this process. He noted that the unabridged birth certificate had been launched on 4 March 2013.
He noted that a building at Cape Town harbour had been renovated and would house all departments that functioned in the marine environment, and would serve as a model for all ports of entry. The Learning Academy had delivered several certificated courses of high quality to officials. This included a National Certificate: Home Affairs Services, which had been piloted with 272 officials.
Ms Josephine Meyer, Chief Director: Budgets, Department of Home Affairs then presented the budget and financial information. She noted that the overall budget for the previous year had been R5.2 billion. The total expenditure, as at 14 March 2013 was R4.7 billion, and by end of March 99.5% of the budget was spent. Of that amount, R41 million had been for the Who Am I Online (WAIO) campaign. R1.2 billion had been earmarked for modernisation. The DHA had managed to cut its costs. There had been a 25% reduction in the entertainment budget, and a 50% reduction in catering, venues and facilities in the 2012/13 financial year.
The cost-cutting measures would continue into the next financial year. For the 2013/14 financial year the DHA aimed to achieve a 25% reduction in the catering budget for provinces, a 40% reduction in the catering budget for branches and 25% reduction in venues and facilities for branches and provinces. The reason the cuts were made was so that money could be moved to fund the shortfall in the deportation costs.
The Chairperson thanked the Department, and was pleased to see the reduction in corruption, and the work done on the smart ID cards. The Committee was looking forward to seeing this system up and running and hoped that it would link in well with the systems of the Departments of Health and of Social Development.
Mr S Plaatjie (COPE, North West) congratulated the delegation on bringing the Department to full functionality. He was pleased to see the smart cards but wondered how realistic was it to set a target for 100 000 smart cards, when there were only 70 offices.
Mr Plaatjie wanted to know the status of the land border infrastructure.
Mr Plaatjie wanted more detail on what the DHA meant by immigration and refugee policies being further developed and approved.
Mr W Faber (DA, Northern Cape) asked why there was a 37% rise in office accommodation costs, which he thought excessive.
Mr Faber enquired where the additional 13 ports of entry would be and questioned also why the intention was to continue with the current control system.
Mr Faber noted that there was a target to have 95% machine-readable passports, but questioned why the DHA was not setting a target for 100% in this area. He also questioned, in relation to passports, why some European countries accepted diplomatic passports from South Africa, but not official passports, although it had been said that the “official passports” were secure.
Mr M De Villiers (DA, Western Cape) wondered about the 64% vacancy rate, and asked for an explanation on some of the figures in the recruitment status table. He also enquired what the problem was with the disability employment equity status and how the DHA planned to address the situation.
Mr De Villiers asked how many health institutions were outside the plans of the Department.
Mr De Villiers noted that funds had been earmarked but wanted to know why in the “Who Am I Online” programme, only 28.3% had been spent. He also noted that some of the figures in the revised budget allocation did not add up, and asked why. He also questioned some of the figures from previous annual reports but said that he would have to look for the specific information and revert to the DHA on that.
Ms M Moshodi (ANC, Free State) wondered what specific catering activities would be reduced to cut costs, and how this would be done.
Ms Moshodi noted that the presentation mentioned achievements, but did not mention challenges, and she asked how the Department would address its challenges. She further commented that the Annual Performance Plan (APP) did not show specific deadlines and timeframes.
Mr T Makunyane (ANC, Limpopo) asked if the new smart cards would be issued to those who applied for IDs for the first time in future. Noting that not all DHA offices would issue the cards, he asked if they would be ready in time for the elections next year.
Mr Faber also asked if the new ID cards would be ready to be used in the elections next year.
Ms W Makgate (ANC, North West) asked what provisions were being made for Lesotho nationals who had come to South Africa as migrant workers and had been here for more than 20 years. This was a major issue in Klerksdorp. Some of these Lesotho nationals had children who were born in South Africa, and who had lived here all their lives, but they could not get documents because their parents were Lesotho nationals. She asked what the DHA was intending to do to assist them.
Ms Makgate commented that the Department was clearly serious about dealing with corruption, but wondered if there were campaigns to educate citizens about the dangers of marrying foreigners, especially the dangers this could pose to the security of this country, since many foreigners could come to South Africa with ulterior motives. There were people who went to DHA offices daily to serve as convenient witnesses to marriages. This was corruption, but it was an unfortunate reality on the ground.
Ms D Rantho (ANC, Eastern Cape) said she was from Joe Gqabi region, and the District Mayor was requesting that a DHA office be set up, either in Maclear or Ugie. This was a very rural area and people had to travel far distances, often having to return several times to get all the right documents in order.
Ms Rantho pointed out that many ex-combatants from Umkhonto We Sizwe had had children while in service in other parts of Africa, and their children were now coming to South Africa, yet were unable to get documentation. The DHA had previous spoken of setting up a register for this category and wondered what had been done about that.
Ms Rantho said that the DHA would have to work closely with several other departments on the registration of births, as many women gave birth at home, because of poor treatment they were receiving from hospitals and clinics. HIV -positive people were especially vulnerable.
Ms Rantho thought that this particular presentation appeared to be the same as the one given to the NA, and reminded the DHA that the NCOP required a tailor-made presentation that highlighted provincial issues.
Ms Rantho asked if DHA actually yet knew how many illegal immigrants there were in South Africa.
Ms Rantho pointed out that the conditions at the Sterkspruit office were very bad. It was always packed and people did not get help there. The district manager had stopped the mobile offices, although they had been necessary because they serviced rural areas. She asked that the DHA attend to the Sterkspruit office, which needed strong monitoring and evaluation.
Ms Rantho asked for more details on the cadet programme.
Ms Chohan apologised that she would have to leave before the end of the meeting, but invited Members to contact her directly if they had further questions and queries. Referring to the question of illegal marriages, she said that DHA needed to get the information on the witnesses for marriages. She agreed that this was purely a case of corruption and officials who were allowing these marriages to be registered t had to be dealt with too. The issue of marriages to foreigners was not easy, because clearly it would be illegal and unconstitutional not to allow such marriages. However, perhaps MPs could themselves educate their constituents about the dangers of bogus marriages, and why there were certain impediments, whilst also recognising that South Africans could be genuinely marrying for love and companionship without any ulterior motives.
The Minister said that the issue of the Lesotho nationals was also very complex, because, technically, people who were in the country illegally had to be removed by being deported. However, because this was not done often enough, they remained in the country. Today, there were people from Lesotho, but tomorrow the influx could begin from Somalia and Mozambique, and the Department would have to deal with them eventually. The DHA could not have a system where IDs were just issued to such people, because the law on the matter was clear. Children followed their parents’ citizenship. If the parents were Basotho nationals, the children would have to go to Lesotho and get documents from there. The problem could not be solved through issuing IDs in South Africa. There were traditional migration flows from neighbouring countries, but the immigration regime did not provide for a way to manage such flows. The Minister was seriously considering the notion of issuing ‘jobseeker quota visas’, which were not currently provided for in the immigration legislation. This would allow the Department to regulate and manage flows into the country. Currently, people came and went into the country, for their own interests. The real solution would be for South Africa to assist countries of origin to develop and to stabilise so that people did not have to come here. The President had said that South Africa was not an island, and the fortunes of the country were interlinked with those of South Africa’s neighbours and countries on the continent.
Ms Chohan noted that the ex-combatants issue needed further discussion, to see to what extent it was a real issue rather than relating to a few isolated incidents.
Ms Chohan noted, in regard to registrations of births, the DHA had made provision for those people who gave birth at home. However, even these parents should be immunising the children within two-weeks of birth, so they would be captured in the system at that stage.
Ms Chohan suggested, in regard to the provincial performance, that this Committee should invite the Provincial Managers to present strategies and a briefing on targets. The purpose of this meeting was for the national Department to give the Committee an overview of its plans and strategies.
Ms Chohan was excused from the meeting at this point
Ms B Mncube (ANC, Gauteng) said the Committee had received a report that the Department was experiencing challenges with registering newborns in rural areas, and wondered how this would be addressed.
Ms Mncube wondered if the numerous informal settlements in Gauteng were covered by the Department.
Ms Mncube asked how foreign nationals with scarce skills would be recruited, and whether DHA was intending to work with the Departments of Labour and Trade and Industry. There was a shortage of engineers and project managers in Gauteng. She also wondered if the DHA data was made available to various departments and entities. There were many highly skilled individuals from neighbouring countries who were in the country illegally, and were presently holding menial jobs. She asked how the DHA could register and recruit such people.
Ms Mncube suggested that DHA officials should visit the fifth floor of the Harris Street, unannounced, where they would see a lot of corruption.
Ms Mncube urged the Department to reach out to schools to register scholars, especially before the elections next year.
Ms Mncube asked why it was taking eight months to issue permanent residence permits.
Ms M Boroto (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked when the Department planned to fill the vacancies.
Ms Boroto asked if there were any provincial statistics on corruption. She wondered if it was possible to vet officials as they were being hired. Citizens needed to have confidence in the DHA.
The Chairperson asked for a provincial breakdown of the newborn registrations, and asked if there was a provincial breakdown of the plan to reduce late registration of births. She also wanted to know if there were provincial breakdowns for Programme 2: Citizen Affairs, and asked how the R1.8 billion budget would be spent. Finally, she wanted a provincial breakdown on the offices that would be refurbished.
Mr Sello Mmakau, Deputy Director General: Information Services, DHA, answered the questions about the smart cards. An assessment had been done on the readiness for the smart cards and live capture. From July 2013 the DHA would be running this from 27 offices – three per province - as a pilot phase. There would be 70 offices involved in the live capture. The Department’s estimation indicated that 100 000 cards could be issued before the end of the financial year. However, the final rollout plan needed approval by the Minister. The target was that, in the next financial year, there would be a minimum of three million cards issued. The Minister had said it would take five to seven years to issue cards to all citizens. Part of the approach was to issue cards to Cabinet, MPs, the elderly and those applying for the first time initially. People would be asked to come in to DHA offices, by their month of birth, because around 2.8 to 3.5 million people were born in the same month. Post Offices would also be used for the project. MTN, Sasol and the Department of Transport had used this method to great effect. The Minister would announce the cut-off date for all citizens to have cards.
The DHA had met with officials from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). Their requirements had already been incorporated into the cards. There would be no problems with the elections next year. The future strategy was to have e-voting, where everything was done electronically.
Mr Jackson McKay, Deputy Director General: Immigration Services, DHA, answered questions around immigrants. He noted that there was an interdepartmental task team for land border infrastructure. It would do needs analyses, and this was also partially in anticipation of the Border Management Agency (BMA) being set up. He said that in general, the immigration policy in South Africa was adequate, but there were problems in specific areas. One of these was the management of asylum-seekers. Policy solutions were being sought. He confirmed that unfortunately, the asylum-seeker system was being abused by economic migrants. The Minister had referred to a ‘work seeker permit’. The DHA was consulting with other departments to come up with a scarce skills list and a methodology on how scarce skills would be attracted and retained.
Mr McKay added that the electronic movement control system (EMCS) had been introduced in 2010 for the World Cup. This was being rolled out incrementally. There were infrastructure issues at many ports, and this had delayed the roll-out. Visa waivers on diplomatic and official passports depended on discussion with individual countries. This also depended on travel patterns and necessity. For instance, officials travelled to Geneva, Switzerland regularly for United Nations business. South Africa was itself concerned about the issuance of these passports by other countries.
Mr McKay confirmed that the DHA did not know how many illegal immigrants there were in the country. There was a list of deportees but this was the only indication of how many illegal persons there were after the fact.
Mr McKay said that the long time taken for issuing permanent residence applications was linked to the fact that they were high-risk applications, so the process of issuing them took time to complete. The authenticity of the documents needed to be checked, and various databases also had to be scrutinised. The State Security Agency also needed to do due diligence on applications. This dependence on other departments and entities delayed the process.
Ms Avril Williamson, Deputy Director General: Human Resources, DHA, explained that, in regard to recruitment and filling of posts, the DHA was in a better place than the 64% figure suggested. Recruitment had had to be centralised, without the necessary capacity. There was correlation between the statistics in the presentation. The Department was addressing the disability equity shortfall. Certain positions had been ring-fenced to be filled by disabled persons. The number of positions targeted would equal the 2% required. This also included internships.
Ms Williamson explained that the Cadet Programme was targeting graduates to be trained in the DHA qualification, in particular. The cadets would be assessed while being trained, to form a pool from which recruits could be taken into the organisation full time once they had graduated. She also confirmed that the statistics provided in the presentation included provincial figures.
Ms Williamson said a Vetting Unit had been established to vet recruits, especially at Senior Management Service (SMS) level.
Ms Boroto pointed out that the real corruption was at the front office, with low level officials. They would need to be vetted.
Mr Mkhize explained that the 95% target for machine-readable passports was based on a trend analysis. There were often problems with reading passports, so the Department had to be realistic about what could be achieved.
Mr Mkhize confirmed to Members that all the provincial breakdowns they had requested, down to individual hospital level. The Minister had asked for a clear programme of action for the reach out to schools and hospitals. Of the 750 hospitals targeted, 346 had been linked. DHA had a memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Health to register home births. Mobile offices were being upgraded to deal with the rigours of rural areas. Informal settlements were being targeted too.
Ms Meyer also confirmed that there was a provincial breakdown of all statistics and budgets.
Ms Meyer explained that the delay in the spending on “Who Am I Online” was due to a delay in the signing of a definitive agreement. National Treasury had been engaged and a rollover of the funds had been requested.
Ms Meyer noted that the increases in the accommodation costs were due to contractual obligations, maintenance and refurbishment of offices.
Mr Mkhize also said the breakdowns of all the information were available and could be sent to the members.
Mr Mkuseli Apleni, Director General, Department of Home Affairs, was now in the meeting, and he apologised again for the absence of the Minister and himself earlier. He noted that the DHA had made a commitment to SCOPA earlier that there would no more qualified audits at the DHA. However, there were two aspects of dependency still troubling the DHA, where it depended on other departments. Firstly, the interaction with the Department of Public Works (DPW) was a big issue. He had met with the Director General of DPW and if there was no improvement, it would escalated to ministerial level. Vetting was also an issue. DHA only collated the information but could not issue the actual certificate. It also would not vet people for five years. It was highly dependent on the State Security Agency for the vetting function.
The Chairperson thanked the officials for their excellent preparation and said the Committee had enjoyed interacting with them.
The meeting was adjourned.
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