Department of Home Affairs on its 2013-2014 Annual Report, in presence of Deputy Minister

NCOP Health and Social Services

07 November 2014
Chairperson: Ms LC Dlamini (ANC, Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA), in the presence of Deputy Minister, Fatima Chohan, presented its 2013/14 Annual Report to the Committee. It highlighted four of the fourteen government priority outcomes to which it contributed against the background of the Department’s mission to create a secure South Africa where all its people are proud and value their identity and citizenship. The Department’s performance in the year was measured against a performance agreement it signed between 2009-2014, which aimed at ensuring completion of all strategic information and identification projects within already defined budgets and time frames. Complementary to the agreement were strategic objectives to ensure the Department carried out its role, and these were highlighted in more detail.

The Department noted that it had faced some systemic challenges in this year, including systems that were out of date and unintegrated, which compromised security and service delivery, unspecialised and unprofessional staff complement, highly uneven quality of infrastructure with large dependency still on the Department of Public Works and rented accommodation. However, the efforts that it had taken to try to address these were also cited. The major highlights for the Department over the 2009-2014 period were emphasised, and these included efforts taken to fight corruption and outcomes against programme targets. Of the 38 targets, only 20 were achieved, 4 were partially achieved and 14 were not achieved. The financial report revealed that the Department had spent 99.97% of its allocated budget and obtained an unqualified audit from the Auditor General’s office, but with matters of emphasis.

Members expressed concern over high levels of corruption and fraud which were still rampant, and bad attitude and poor service delivery by officials of the Department. Other issues raised included the number of vacant funded posts, what was being done around registration of births and a problem with uncollected identity cards. Members also asked for clarity on the live capture facility, what was being done by the Department to assist vulnerable and elderly or disabled people, new offices, its aim to bring offices closer to the people, and the new Smart card. 

Meeting report

Department of Home Affairs 2013/14 Annual Report briefing
The Chairperson welcomed the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Ms Fatima Chohan, to the meeting. She also commended the Department of Home Affairs (DHA or the Department) on its achievements.
Mr Mkuseli Apleni, Director General, Department of Home Affairs, indicated that the Department’s major role is to create a secure South Africa where all its people are proud and value their identity and citizenship. He highlighted four of the fourteen government priority outcomes which the Department contributed to, and outlined that the Department would try to ensure that all people in South Africa are and feel safe, decent employment through inclusive economic growth, an efficient, and effective and development oriented public service, nation building and social cohesion.

He stated that DHA had a performance agreement between 2009-2014, which aimed at ensuring completion of all strategic information and identification projects within defined budgets and time frames, effective and efficient refugee management strategies and systems, contributing to the level of skills and general economic development in South Africa targets by realisng appositive skills migration. He pointed to the trend of around 50 000 migrants annually. DHA aimed to achieve registration of every child birth within 30 days of delivery. It would attend to issuing of identity documents to every South African 16 years and above, improving turnaround times for all services, queuing times and unit costs per service, and determining and improving the maximum distance that a citizen would need to travel to access Home Affairs Services.

Complementary to the agreement, he listed the strategic objectives for the Department, which included ensuring that registration at birth was the only point for South Africans to the National Population Register, to issue identity documents (IDs) to citizens turning 16 years of age and above, to ensure the identification and registration of all South African citizens and foreign nationals, to enhance the integrity and security of identity, to ensure a secure, responsive and flexible immigration regime in support of national security, priorities and interests, to implement effective and efficient asylum seeker and refugee management strategies and systems, to facilitate the efficient movement of bona fide travellers to support national interests and priorities, and to prevent and prohibit the movement of undesirable persons in the interest of national security. Furthermore, he highlighted that it should contribute towards realising a positive skills migration trend of around 50, 000 migrants annually, transform the culture of the organisation in support of securing identity, citizenship and international migration, to ensure ethical conduct and a zero tolerance approach to corruption, to obtain a clean audit report and to ensure effective, efficient and accessible service delivery to clients.

Mr Apleni noted that the following challenges had been identified by the Department in this financial year
- Outdated and unintegrated systems had compromised security and service delivery
- The Staff complement did not have sufficient specialists and was not professionalised
- There was still a highly uneven quality infrastructure with large dependency on Department of Public Works (DPW) and rented accommodation
- There was still uneven quality of administration and government processes, which created risks and compromised the effective management of people and resources
- There were constant risks and threats to civil registration, identity and immigration systems from local and transnational criminal syndicates
- The policy and legislation in a number of areas required further review and updating
- Immigration capacity and systems were not aligned with a strategic, risk based approach.

In support of achieving the strategic objectives of the DHA, government priorities and the National Development plan, the DHA had identified the following goals over the next three to five years:
- Effective management of immigration to contribute to security and development
- Establishing a comprehensive and secure National Identity System (NIS)
- Modernising the home affairs portfolio through investing in people, processes and technology
- Improving service delivery and promoting good governance and administration, developing officials that were ethical, patriotic and professional
- Taking visible and firm action in the fight against corruption.

Mr Apleni then listed the major highlights and achievements for the Department over the 2009-2014 period. Amongst others, this included meeting the 2010 FIFA world cup guarantee, to a high standard. The National Population Registration Campaign mobilised officials and communities to record over 1 million "invisible" citizens and reduce late birth registration. The DHA had amended civics and immigration legislation. It had addressed security gaps and improved service delivery, including to vulnerable groups. Security of birth certificate had been improved (and the DHA was now asking for both parents details) . The front office was now able, for the first time, to print full birth certificates. A centralised adjudication hub was established for permits and visas, and this had reduced fraud and corruption and enabled efficiency gains. Stakeholder forums were formed across country so that communities, local government and departments mobilised support for the delivery of DHA services.

There had been major IT breakthrough in the design and development of new systems, including the rollout of a smart ID card. The refurbishment programme continued and included transforming 70 paper-based offices to a new fully digital process for IDs and passports, with access to institutions to verify identity being expanded, including a major agreement signed with the banking sector. Other beneficiaries were South African Social Services Agency (SASSA) and the justice system. The DHA had also enhanced its real-time movement control system (e-MCS). Offices were rolled out to additional ports and capacity was strengthened at the largest ports, with a focus on the maritime environment. The Learning Academy was developed, and it had delivered dedicated DHA professional courses and induction. The Human Resources (HR) unit introduced leadership and cadre development and mentoring. Overall, the DHA footprint and channels were expanded in respect of offices, connected health facilities and client service centres.

Mr Apleni wanted to focus specifically on efforts directed to the fight against fraud and corruption. He noted the elevation of the capacity dealing with corruption to a branch level, and said the branch structure activities were now modeled on the public anti-corruption strategy in accordance with the MACC requirements. The Crime Corruption strategy had a national footprint with employees, who dealt with vetting, investigations, research and analysis, fraud prevention and detection, security, participation in stakeholder engagements. He noted that this included participation with the Hawks, the Justice and Crime Prevention and Security cluster, central intelligence, CICF and SAIL. A baseline study on the cause of corruption had been undertaken, and there had been approval of the counter corruption and fraud prevention strategy, the conflict of interest policy, internal security policy, vetting policy and review of the whistle-blowing policy. Furthermore, he highlighted the appointment of the Ethics Champion and establishment of the Ethics Management Committee.

Mr Apleni then went on to list the progress, according to the government outcomes to which the DHA worked, as follows:

Outcome1: Secured South African Citizenship and Identity:  7 of the 14 targets were achieved, 1 was partially achieved and 6 were not achieved

Outcome 2: Immigration managed efficiently and securely in the national interest, including economic social and cultural development: 7 of the 10 targets were achieved, 3 were partially achieved

Outcome 3: A service that is efficient, accessible and corruption free: 6 of the 14 targets were achieved and 8 were not achieved.

2013-2014 Financial Performance
Mr Gordon Hollamby, Chief Financial Officer, DHA, presented on the Department’s annual financial statements. The Department spent 99.97% of its allocated budget. The DHA obtained an unqualified audit with emphasis of matter for the 2013/14 financial year and promised to endeavour to improve the audit outcomes in future.

The Chairperson noted the various findings highlighted in the Auditor-General (AG) audit report, emphasising the vacant funded posts, the fact that the accounts needed more clarity and breakdown, as well as issues of fraud and corruption which characterised the Department.

Members of the Committee, Ms T Mampuru (ANC, Limpopo), Ms P Mququ (ANC, Eastern Cape), Mr D Stock (ANC, Northern Cape) and Ms L Zwane (ANC, KwaZulu Natal) asked a number of questions.

They were concerned about the level of corruption and fraud in the Department and wanted to know if there were any measures which are being taken to reduce this.

Secondly, it was noted that some officials in the Department were very notorious for bad attitude and poor service delivery towards clients. Members asked whether the Department was aware of these incidents, and, if so, what was being done to bring such officials to book.

The Department was asked to explain how the live capture system worked, and what the Department was doing about uncollected identity cards.

Ms Fatima Chohan, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, said part of the Department’s campaign to address the issue of officials of the Department with bad attitude was by using a system where officials were required to wear name tags. If a person was not wearing his/her tag, the person being served would be entitled to call the manager, and ask who the person was. Each office also had names and telephone numbers of all the members of the Department so that if anyone had a bad experience they could dial one of the numbers and report the matter. It was important for Members of Parliament to empower their people as well so that where a person did bring a query to his or her MP, the complainant should be asked to fills out a statement of complaint with his/her names and details, in order to assist the Department in following up on the complaint. The Deputy Minister said she would very much like to know if the names of the person with a bad attitude had been taken down. She reassured members that when it came to the issue of bad attitude, the Minister and Deputy Minister took personal responsibility and had come out very strongly against it.

The Deputy Minister said the issue of corruption and fraud was more complicated because security departments throughout the world were the first targets of organized crime .The DHA was no exception to this syndicated crime. On the issue of production of documents, Members needed to understand that South Africa was one of the few countries in Sub Saharan Africa with a liberal Constitution and a social safety net, which made it an attractive place to come and live. In addition, although there had been an economic downturn, South Africa was not as badly off as other countries in the world. It was a country where young people sought opportunities to improve their lives through hard work. Because of that, an Identity Document became a very important document, owing to the fact that the Department was a target for fraud. The Department had to try and find processes for limiting opportunities for corruption and a smart ID card was one of them. The smart ID card was structured in such a way that the Department knew who was handling each particular transaction.

In the immigration system, there was a difficulty where the front office was adjudicating the visa applications. The front office’s right to adjudicate visa applications had been taken away, and it no longer received visa applications. Adjudication had been centralised at Head Office so that it was not possible for a person to bribe an official to ensure the success of his or her application. There was an efficient system in place where applications would be tracked digitally. Ms Chohan and the DHA had not received any complaints over the last few years in respect of applications which had stayed in an office for too long. The Department lookedat introducing modern processes and sensitising the human resources of the Department to understand the risky nature of their work. These were some of the mechanisms the Department was putting in place to combat fraud and corruption.

Mr Apleni said that the Department admitted that it did have weakness in terms of delivery of services and availability of finances. The Department was willing to look at what it had, without blaming anyone. The starting point was to meet with the Auditor-General and his whole team, which gave an opportunity to the Department to know what was expected of it and to highlight the challenges it faced in meeting those expectations. The Department had a programme with the Auditor General’s office, on which it was working.

On the concern of fraud in home affairs, Mr Apleni said it was indeed true that the Department was targeted, but the issue was really whether the Department was visible and effective in dealing with fraud. The Department was dedicated to implementing the performance management tool from the Presidency. The Department also had approved its fraud prevention plan.

Mr Apleni said that at this stage, the DHA could not make an absolute commitment to try to move to paperless systems, but he did concede that if other departments were able to do this, it was possible that the DHA might be able to as well.

Mr Apleni confirmed that the Department was working on the issue of registration of births, and the Minister has signed agreements with municipalities to forge a way forward. The Department was also getting all structures involved, such as the Department of Health. The DHA wanted to start comparing the number of births registered at the hospitals with those registered by the DHA itself, to iron out the discrepancies in numbers, and avoid cases where people would arrive when they were 25 years of age, claiming they were South African but were born in a different area to the one where they now lived.

Mr Apleni confirmed that, in respect of the elderly and disabled, the Department was looking at a mobile solutions. The mobile offices available were running under the old system. The Department was looking at getting mobile offices aligned with the new system, to replace the old system, and was putting in place a strategy of taking people outside the offices to the areas of need, which might involve people registering from their homes, or paying in the bank.

Mr Apleni confirmed that distance was an issue. The DHA was looking at establishing centres in Soweto and other areas for issuing of ID smart cards and passports. The Department needed to expand and look at those areas, and see what could be done with existing offices, rather than them becoming white elephants. The Minister and Deputy Minister would announce the stakeholder arrangements in place to move the process forward, starting with people between 16 and 59 years

On the matter of collection of identity cards, the Department did not understand why people did not collect their identity cards. The duty fee was increased from R20 to R140, but this did not deter people from applying for IDs, as they were paying the fee and still not collecting the IDs. The Department asked communities to assist in encouraging people to collect their identity cards before the DHA might have to resort to other, perhaps less democratic ways of making people collect their IDs.

Mr Apleni added to the comment by the Deputy Minister in respect of action taken against defaulting staff by saying that the Department had a manual checklist to take disciplinary processes against people who are not doing their work.

Mr Apleni explained that the definition of a live capture passport was one where people, instead of carrying a photo to be attached to their passports, would have their photo taken at the office. Live capture would be available in 140 offices. The DHA would also be looking at regions which had people travelling on a regular basis. He once again assured the Committee that the Department was willing to address the issues pointed out by the Committee, and any queries that may not be answered now would be addressed in the quarterly report.

Mr Vusumuzi Mkhize, Deputy Director General: Civic Services, DHA, on the issue of uncollected Identity cards said that there were sms platforms which were being used to remind people to collect their identity cards and stakeholders forums had been established, who had a list of uncollected passports. The Department was looking at how effective these action plans were.

On the issue of access, some centers which were opened were not cooperating with the Department. The Department met with them to address the issue of planning of centres, so that the rollout of these centres was effective.

Mr Mkhize also added to the points about the staff attitude, and confirmed that over and above the name tags, the Department hads introduced name plates which would be placed on the desk of each of the members of staff as one of the mechanisms put in place to make employees accountable.

Mr Mkhize also added that in relation to corruption and fraud, the Department has a three-tier strategy for combating corruption, starting with prevention, detection and prosecution. The model was approved. There were disciplinary cases brought against officials, where the Director General and Deputy Director General had to testify, in order to send a strong message against corruption.

Mr Apleni confirmed that the DHA had stepped in to avoid situations where people would be charged in court, but might get very lenient sentences for corruption. In the new legislation, the penalties had been increased to a maximum of 15 years, for issues of forged identity cards and marriages of convenience. A case would first be handled within the Department at a disciplinary level, before a police case was opened.

Mr Hollamby added, in respect of accountability, and that all staff members now submitted addendums to their performance agreements, which linked directly to the audit matters. The manager signed the performance agreements' addendum so the Department was being held accountable in that regard, and anyone found to have acted with malicious compliance would be held accountable.

Mr Yusuf Simons, Acting Deputy Ministerial Official, Department of Home Affairs, said filing was a challenge for the Department, because the current space to hold the files was not sufficient. In addition, budget increases were slower than in any other Department, with around a 2% to 3% annual increase while other departments were getting 8%.The structural and financial stress was affecting the filing system, yet the AG did not want to hear any excuses for not finding files.

The Chairperson asked for an explanation on the vacancy rate.

Ms Avril Williamson, Deputy Director General: Human Resources, DHA, said all positions in the Department were funded, and the DHA no longer listed the unfunded vacancies. She said that she would only be able to give a definitive answer on this by 31 December. Currently, Parliament had reviewed all the vacancies in organisations and prioritised the positions which were most required. An emphasis was put on the front desk management function and Senior Management Service provisoning.The vacancy rate stood at 0.2% by the end of September. The Department addressed most of the vacancy issues and it was far better off than it was at the beginning of the financial year.

The Chairperson was concerned that there were very few women in the Department in senior positions. More importantly, on the issue of ebola, there was a Committee meeting with the Department of Health, Defence and Education planned, and the DHA would also be invited. She assured the DHA of the Committee's support, and noted that where stringent or difficult questions were asked, this was done in the spirit of improvement.

The meeting was adjourned.


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