Department of Home Affairs on its Annual Report for 2012/13

Home Affairs

09 October 2013
Chairperson: Ms M Maunye (ANC, Gauteng)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) briefed the Committee on its 2012/13 Annual Report, although it explained that this was a broad overview that did not attempt to cover all matters set out in the detailed Annual report. In summarising the contributions of this Department, it was noted that it contributed to the level of skills and general economic development targets by realising a positive skills migration trend of around 50 000 migrants annually, and focussed on critical skills shortages, managed refugee strategies, registered births and issued IDs and aimed to achieve and maintain a clean and secure National Population Register. It aimed to effectively implement a proactive, risk based and efficient management of immigration, effectively harness technology, and develop state and civil society partnerships in support of service delivery and security mandates. The footprint was expanding, and large volumes of people were managed through border posts. The backlog of Temporary Residence permits had been largely eradicated but there were still problems with the Permanent Residence permits, although a special committee had been established to deal with them. There had been 50 targets, but not all were achieved, and some were achieved partially, although there had been performance over the target figures in births registration, connection of health institutions, and IDs. There had been delays, however, in establishing the National Identity System, in live capture in 167 offices, and although a test run had been done on Smart Cards, it was noted that this would be a long-term project running over the next six to seven years. The DHA was still trying to address the challenge of duplicate IDs but the holders of duplicate were not willingly coming forward. The Visa Facilitation Service was rolled out at three high-volume foreign missions, but there had been delays in implementing the 2011 Refugee Reception Offices and the High Court ruling to re-establish the Refugee Reception Centre in Cape Town had been set aside on appeal. Higher standards at ports of entry were not finalised although a draft concept paper on strengthening security of systems was being drafted. DHA had managed to refurbish 19 offices, and fill 60% of vacancies, and this was making gains on the strategy to bring DHA closer to the people.  

The DHA had received a qualified audit, with challenges around the CATS system to balance fines and penalties, as well as ongoing problems in accounting for foreign properties, particularly a lease agreement in London. There had been some over-spending and unauthorised expenditure as the Trading Account implementation was problematic. Challenges were identified with decentralisation of administration, implementation of systems, and the need for regular performance reviews of the internal audit.

Members were very disappointed with the qualified audit and several questioned specific comments of the Auditor-General. They remarked that it showed lack of leadership and management involvement, and suggested that the matter of foreign properties must, once and for all, be finalised between the Minister and Department of International Relations and Cooperation. They called for information on certain qualifications and asked what had been done to prevent it recurring. They also asked about the difficulties with the Trading Account, which would probably be closed. Members stressed that DHA was essentially a security department and that corruption would severely affect national security, and must be stamped out. They stressed the need to discipline staff where necessary. Members sought clarity on the skills migration targets, and the vacancy rate, and one Member suggested that perhaps DHA should not pay too much attempt to representivity targets but simply get people with the right skills. Backlogs were questioned, and it was suggested that the Committee needed to see the reports of the Internal Audit unit. Members also raised concerns around the border management and decisions on the Refugee Reception Centres.
 

Meeting report

Introduction and Apologies
The Chairperson and Committee introduced themselves.

The Chairperson, as well as Mr Mkuseli Apleni, Director General, Department of Home Affairs,  tendered the apologies of the Minister of Home Affairs, Ms Naledi Pandor, and Deputy Minister, Ms Fatima Chohan.

Department of Home Affairs 2012/13 Annual Report briefing
Mr Apleni explained that the presentation was a summary that highlighted important matters, and did not attempt to cover all information set out in the Annual Report. He highlighted the main themes.

He noted that the Department of Home Affairs (DHA or the Department) contributed to the level of skills and general economic development targets by realising a positive skills migration trend of around 50 000 migrants annually, and it the DHA focussed on critical skills shortages. It put in place an effective and efficient refugee management strategies and systems. He noted that every child birth was registered with 30 days of delivery and that identity documents (IDs) were issued to every South African of 16 years and above. He explained the measurable objectives that the DHA set out to achieve in terms of the Strategic Plan, and said that this in turn was grounded on three outcomes that were aligned with the DHA mandate and priorities.

The DHA aimed to achieve and maintain a clean and a secure National Population Register, to effectively implement a proactive, risk based and efficient management of immigration, to effectively harness technology, and to develop state and civil society partnerships in support of service delivery and security mandates. He explained that online registration of births and deaths increased from 118 in March 2009 to 334 in March 2013. 93% of passports applied for were delivered within 13 working days. There had been a steady expansion of the footprint of the DHA. The DHA reasonably and efficiently facilitated large volumes of persons through ports of entry and thus gave support for large international events. It had largely eradicated the backlog of temporary residence permits and there were some efficiency gains in deportations of illegal migrants and in the adjudication of asylum seekers. However, the DHA faced challenges in managing a complex and dynamic immigration environment, as well as in aligning and strategically managing the planning and budgeting cycle.

DHA had 50 targets and had partially achieved against those, at between 41% and 99% of target. In particular, he highlighted some statistics in the major focus areas. On births, 602 530 were registered against the target of 594 000.  85 health institutions were connected, against a target of 80. 41 876 learners were issued with IDs. There was a delay in establishing the National Identity System (NIS) because the contract with Cuba was not finalised. Live capture for passports and IDs was not rolled out of 167 offices.

The pilot project for providing the Smart Card was tested sufficiently with 100 cards. The e-permitting and visa system specifications were approved and finalised. 100% of ID duplicates for clients coming forward were resolved within 12 weeks. In this regard, the challenges that DHA faced of more than one person having a certain ID number still persisted, but DHA continued to encourage people to come forward.

In terms of national security and refugee management, a Visa Facilitation Service (VFS) was rolled out at three high volume foreign missions, in Angola and the DRC. There was a delay in implementing the 2011 Refugees Amendment Act. No strategy and plan was developed for relocation of existing refugee reception offices (RROs) near borders because of unresolved related cases. Approval and development of infrastructure standards for ports of entry, in order to prevent and prohibit the movements of “undesirable persons”, were also not finalised.

In terms of fighting against corruption, a draft concept paper was reported to be under consideration, specifically on the role of DHA in fighting corruption and strengthening the security of identity and immigration systems.

Mr Apleni reported that the Auditor-General (AG) had not issued an unqualified audit report in this year. He explained that the DHA was challenged with the IT system set in place called “CATS” to balance fines and penalties. He indicated that there was an accrual of R7 million arising out of the South African Embassy’s lease for Whitehall Building in London, which was linked to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO). The South African official in London who leased the “Whitehall Building” struggled to pay, and was sued. The DHA argued that it was not responsible for payment because it had not concluded the lease agreement.

With reference to service delivery accessibility, he reported that the DHA needed permanent accommodation. It had managed to refurbish 19 offices. With the filling of 60% of funded posts an access strategy to bring DHA service closer to the people was established. IDs were issued within 47 to 54 working days. Passports were issued within 13 to 24 working days. The total number of IDs issued was 896 613.

Mr Apleni moved on to the financial information. There had been over-spending on the budget, resulting in “unauthorised expenditure”, due to implementation of the Trading Account being postponed. Unauthorised expenditure mainly resulted from printing costs for forms and face value documentation, courier costs, and cash in transit service costs.

Reporting on administrative transformation challenges, Mr Apleni explained that the challenges arose out of decentralisation of administration to provincial offices, which he referred to as “teething challenges.” Other challenges included implementation of the new asset management system, manual foreign revenue management system, migration from the old to new movement control system, and poor application of control mechanisms. The out-dated systems produced uneven quality of management information. There was also a need for regular performance reviews of the internal audit.

Mr Apleni then presented to the Committee a slide setting out what DHA saw as the way forward to improve the quality of performance of the DHA and to effectively and sufficiently achieve its objectives and targets (see attached presentation for full details). He concluded his presentation by, on behalf of the DHA, expressing sincere appreciation to the Committee for its continued support and guidance. He also thanked the Auditor General, Audit Committee, and National Treasury for their support.

Discussion
Mr A Gaum (ANC) said that the Annual Report audit was more qualified than in the previous year. There were also not sufficient improvements in other matters. Some errors were apparent and the DHA did not meet its targets. He sought clarification on what steps would be taken to ensure that inadequate performance did not recur in the future.

Mr M de Freitas (DA) said that he too was disappointed by the DHA’s failure to obtain a clean audit report.

Ms N Mnisi (ANC) indicated she was disappointed by the DHA’s failure to obtain a clean audit as well as to achieve its targets. She expressed concern, in particular, around over expenditure, the unauthorised spending of R3.1 million, under performance of the management, the higher expenditure on training. She asked whether it was true that a senior manager received R1.7 million. If so, then she wanted to know for what reasons.

The Chairperson expressed concern around the DIRCO matter and stated that it was frustrating to talk about these issues linked to foreign properties, year in and year out. She suggested that there was a need for this Committee to sit down with the Minister and find some way to finally bring the issue to closure.

Mr Apleni accepted the comments and suggestion of the members of the Committee as fair, and stated that the DHA was working so hard to obtain an unqualified and a clean audit report.

In regard to the unauthorised payments he explained that it was anticipated that DHA should deduct the unauthorised expenditure out of the revenue, and explained the difficulties around the lack of a specific allocation.

With reference to the regression to a qualified audit, Mr Apleni stated that the DHA was faced with various complex issues. He told the Committee that the DHA capacity was inadequate, but there had been measures put in place to make sure that the DHA was empowered to perform and thus meet its targets. He provided an example of the difficulties that the DHA had faced in replacing an employee whose duties included Visa Facilitation Service (VFO), who had resigned in August.

The Chairperson She sought clarification on the question of the Trading Account that became a cost to the DHA, and asked why the DHA had not done a prior investigation into it and whether it would be of advantage to the DHA.

Mr Apleni said that it had in fact been National Treasury who had suggested to DHA that it should have this account, because there was a shortage of money within the DHA itself. However, he agreed that it did transpire that the Trading Account involved the DHA in costs, and the DHA would now be going back to National Treasury and explaining to it that DHA no longer required the account as it had become part of the financial problem instead of a financial solution.

Mr M Mnqasela (DA) said that the burning issue he identified was the question of leadership. The DHA was not doing its work in terms of managing and monitoring. The Internal Auditing team was also not doing its work properly. The DHA should note with grave concern the remarks of the Auditor-General in relation to the DHA Internal Audit function. The Committee should assist the DHA to find out where the problem was, in order to move to obtaining a clean audit. He asked whether the DHA had approached the National Treasury as far as unauthorised expenditure was concerned.

Ms P Petersen-Maduna (ANC) reminded the DHA that it must bear in mind that it was a security department. The issue of corruption would severely affect the national security because people could come and go without being detected, or simply pay corrupt amounts. Illegal or undesirable people were likely to use corruption to secure their stay in the country. This was viewed as a serious threat to national integrity and security.

Ms Petersen-Maduna was disappointed that the unauthorised expenditure had increased instead of decreasing. She was of the opinion that this had happened because the DHA had not taken sufficient steps to discipline its staff. She stated that undisciplined and incompetent employees came at great cost to the DHA and they should, accordingly, be dismissed. The Committee should look into the DHA collaborating also with other Departments because these departments could be condoning serious non-compliance, resulting in the DHA regression.

Mr Apleni explained that to his mind, leadership meant that the DHA must take the department forward. Managers had responsibilities to do that by dedicating their time to achieving the DHA objectives. Commenting on the remarks about poor management, Mr Apleni explained that there was in fact a structure of communication and meetings in the DHA. Meetings were held between the Director General and Deputy Director Generals on one hand, and Deputy Director Generals and Chief Directors on the other. The DHA used a bottom-up approach in communicating information. He accepted that there was some poor management arising from the fact that the Chief Operations Officer (COO) post was not filled. This weakness had been identified and the DHA was seeking someone to appoint in that capacity. The COO would assist the DHA in monitoring and ensuring that the DHA effectively and adequately operated. He/she would be a centre of communication.

Mr de Freitas sought clarification on the target for positive skills migration of 50 000 migrants.

Mr Apleni explained that this target for 50 000 foreign workers was suggested by the Office of the President, for the purpose of boosting South African economic growth. The DHA was doing all that it could to reach that target.

Mr De Freitas wanted more details on the health facilities connected online, how the DHA achieved target of birth registration, why only learners’ IDs were highlighted in the report, why the DHA required presence of both persons with duplicated ID number but it did not use other mechanisms such as involving other stakeholders to bring forward a person with a duplicate ID number.

Mr Apleni answered on the duplicate ID number, and explained that the time frame to deal with duplicate ID numbers was December 2013. The DHA had published a list in the media, had made announcements, and obtained contacts from various sources such as financial institutions, SARS and the SA Police Service (SAPS). Only a few persons could be contacted or came forward and there were less than 2 000, out of about 19 000 cases, who had come forward. The DHA required the parties to come in person. The DHA wanted to identify which of the persons in possession of a duplicate ID may have used that duplicate for criminal purpose.

Mr Mnqasela had concerns about the Smart card, which he thought was a serious problem, but felt that the DHA was not keeping the Committee fully informed about what was going on.

Mr Apleni told the Committee that the issuing of the Smart Card to all would not be a one-year project. Smart card development would require three years, to develop the cards, and then another six to seven years to issue the cards to 38 million ID book holders. They could certainly not be issued in a short space of time.

Mr Mnqasela also raised his concerns about corruption. He felt that DHA was characterised by a culture of corruption and wanted to know what measures would be put in place to discourage and detect bribes.

Mr Mnqasela asked abut the vacancy rate.

Mr G McIntosh (COPE) also raised concern about the high numbers of vacancies. He wanted to know whether the DHA made use of civil society to assist in boosting its workforce. He suggested that the DHA should not follow the recruitment requirement of racialism and sexism (otherwise known as affirmative action) because this would impede on its hiring process. The DHA would, as a result, continue to suffer from an employment shortage because it might not attract or retain qualified people who did not meet the affirmative action requirements.

Mr Apleni said that the DHA faced certain challenges with employing people who were experienced in the IT field. Given the complexity of the hi-tech system needed by the DHA, highly qualified and experienced people were needed. Likewise, there were also other positions that needed qualified people in order to achieve their objectives and targets.

Ms H Makhuba (COPE) asked clarification on why DHA was faced by a Permanent Residence backlog.

Mr Apleni responded that there was actually also a problem with the Temporary Residence permits as well where there was also a backlog. The DHA had to focus on the Temporary Residence permits first. However, a Committee had been set up to deal with Permanent Residence permits backlog and to clear that backlog by November 2013. There was a committee of five people that was dedicated to dealing with the Permanent Residence applications. The Committee work force was increased and there were more 24 people undertaking training to supplement the special committee established to clear that backlog. The timeframe for clearing the backlog was targeted as 12 weeks and, at the time of briefing, four weeks had elapsed.

Ms Makhuba also wondered why there seemed to be problems with the issuance of learners’ IDs. There should be no ID problem to the children who were born in or after 1994.

Ms Makhuba wanted more detail on the problems around the Internal Audit and said that the report of the internal auditors should be presented to the Committee, for it to detect non-compliance beforehand.

Mrs Petersen-Maduna wanted to know what the Department was doing to deal with its staff who were also running businesses, contrary to government policy.

Mr Apleni commented in general on matters that related to or required disciplining of staff. He said that the DHA did have disciplinary measures in place and it took the issue of discipline seriously. He indicated that once an issue of discipline came forward, it would take a certain time to finalise it. An employee could not be dismissed without the matter proceeding along the right lines. If there was a challenge and the matter went to court, that court action had to be allowed to run its course. He said that the Labour Relations Act and unions protected workers against dismissals. Whilst the matter might be before a court, an employee in question would be working and, eventually would be paid.

He added that it was quite difficult for the DHA to detect staff who did not declare their businesses. The DHA had more than 10 000 employees. He said that he knew only of those who had filled out the form setting out the declaration of their assets, but it was impossible to know of those who had not done this. It was difficult for the Department to go to the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office to investigate its employees’ (or their spouses’) own businesses.

Ms D Mathebe(ANC) expressed her concern around the fact that South Africa was not aware of the exact status or numbers of illegal or temporary foreigners in the country. She wanted to know what the DHA was doing to ensure national security and to prevent the Kenyan terrorist-style attacks.

Mr Mnqasela asked for comment from the DHA on the woman who had been involved in a terrorist attack, who was claimed to be a South African.

Mr Apleni said that this particular person, Samantha Lewthwaite, who was involved in the terrorist attack in Nairobi was able to enter and leave the country without being detected or tracked down. Mr Apleni explained that the Department of Home Affairs in fact had compelling evidence that she was not using a South African passport.

Mr G McIntosh (COPE) raised concern around border management, as well as repeating concerns of other Members about the high numbers of vacancies.  and high number of vacant positions.
The Chairperson requested more detail on permanent accommodation of the DHA.

Mr Apleni reminded the Committee that there was a “Border Management Agency” mandated to secure the border. In addition, the DHA, the Department of Police, and the Department of Defence were all involved in securing the border and in ensuring security of the nation. Prior to 2009, the DHA was not part of the Security Cluster, although it was later recognised that it had a role to play in ensuring security. He agreed that in order to ensure that the nation was secure, the National Population Register should be clean and secure. He agreed with Ms Petersen-Maduna that undesirable persons and criminals should not be allowed entry. However, he noted that the way of detecting criminal was usually through fingerprint identification but of course no fingerprints were taken at border entry posts. This was one of the main challenges in controlling the border.

He added that it was also difficult to deport people who were detected to be illegally staying in South Africa, because human rights activists would often intervene to seek a judicial remedy, or embassies were not collaborating or there were even deportees who were unwilling to reveal their country of origin. The DHA could not deport a person if it could not ascertain where that person came from, or in the case when the embassy did not collaborate. The Minister and ambassadors would have to meet to solve this problem, most especially the DRC embassy.

Mr Mnqasela asked with emphasis what the DHA would do to make sure it met the targets for the next year.

Mr Mnqasela enquired why DHA did not appear to be following the court rulings. 

Mr Apleni said that the DHA was at the moment engaged in exhausting all judicial remedies available to it. He cited the example that injustice could arise if it blindly accepted rulings of lower courts, citing the example of the Western Cape High Court decision directing the DHA to re-open the Refugee Reception Centre in Cape Town, a decision that was later reversed by the Supreme Court of Appeal on the basis that it was not competent for the court to make a ruling of an administrative or executive nature, because it would be usurping the power of another arm of government.

Mr Apleni said that the DHA usually held media briefings on a weekly basis. He said that copies of these briefing notes would be forwarded to the Committee, to keep Members informed.

The Chairperson thanked him for this suggestion and asked that this be done to keep the Committee updated on performance. She thanked the DHA for its substantial briefing.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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