Deputy Minister and Auditor General on Home Affairs Annual Performance Plan 2015/16 & audit finding action plan

Home Affairs

17 March 2015
Chairperson: Mr B Mashile (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA) briefed the Committee on the Annual Performance Plan (APP) of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). The brief included factors to be considered by the Committee when dealing with performance monitoring, a review of DHA 2015/16 APP and a review of its previous audit findings. AGSA said the APP should be assessed to see if it aligned with the National Development Plan (NDP). Both quarterly and annual progress should be assessed against APP targets, including  tracking any changes to the APP. Questions that should be asked include whether adequate resources were available to achieve the APP and how would the entity achieve the APP?  Members sought clarity on indicators of achievement, how to determine the possibility or impossibility of achieving targets, on compliance and significant findings, on good governance, and how the AGSA determined factors to look at during its auditing exercise.

DHA briefed the Committee on its Annual Performance Plan for 2015/16 with the Deputy Minister in attendance. DHA presentation touched on the commitments the DHA had made to achieving national outcomes and plans; the vision of DHA and the strategies it was implementing to achieve its goals, highlights of its Strategic Plan for 2015-2020 and the APP for 2015/16. DHA noted that the main focus of the APP was on 36 targets that it has committed to achieve this year. The APP targets were connected to the nine strategic objectives that they were formulated to achieve. Both targets and objectives were organised under the three programmes: Citizen Affairs, Administration, and Immigration Affairs.

Members sought clarity on national security such as border management and control, the vetting process, biometrics, introduction of an inspectorate body to enforce the immigration regime, on DHA’s undertaking to process a foreign applicant with critical skills within three months. More clarity was sought on the complaints from people who were experiencing difficulties to getting hold of the DHA for the VFS visa services, undocumented South African citizens, pending disciplinary and corruption cases, and its training curriculum.

Meeting report

Auditor General of South Africa on the Department of Home Affairs 2015/16 Annual Performance Plan
Mr Naveen Mooloo, Senior Manager: Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA) took the Committee through presentation focussing on the oversight model and components, factors to be considered by the Committee when dealing with performance monitoring, AGSA’s aspirations for the public service, its review of the Department of Home Affairs 2015/16 Annual Performance Plan, audit findings history, and other key matters.

Mr Mooloo noted five components of the Committee’s overall mandate: consider, amend, approve or reject bills; consider and approve budgets and monitor expenditure of the Departments and entities reporting on it; consider progress reports (monitoring) from line-function departments and provincial and local government authorities and entities on their mandate; ensure that all appropriate executive organs of the state in its portfolio were held accountable for their actions; conduct oversight over the executive authority and consult or liaise with any other executive organ of state and make recommendations.

With regard to performance monitoring, the Committee ought to look at whether the APP was aligned with the National Development Plan (NDP), to review annual achievements or quarterly progress against APP targets and to track any changes to the APP. Suggested questions that could be asked include whether adequate resources were available to achieve the APP and how the entities would achieve their APPs?

Mr Mooloo explained management’s assurance role (first level of assurance), oversight’s assurance role (second level of assurance)and the role of independent assurance (third level of assurance).

Mr Mooloo noted that the three programmes of the Department of Home Affairs (Administration, Citizen Affairs, Immigration Services) ought to be evaluated on the basis of usefulness and reliability principles. In its audit findings, the AGSA found that the APP indicators were not well defined or were not measurable.

Mr Mooloo noted that the AGSA’s aspiration for the public service was to create a better and dignified life for the citizens of South Africa through timely, effective, efficient and economical service delivery.

The Chairperson welcomed the presentation and sought clarity on indicators that were 25% not measurable and 17% not verifiable. Were these numbers separate or were 17% not verifiable within 25% not measurable. He noted that members were not expected to raise arguments against the presentation but to engage with it in a way of seeking clarification. The purpose of the presentation was to enlighten them.

Mr M Hoosen (DA), with reference to the DHA audit findings history, sought clarity on the use of the mark “X” and asked whether the mark meant yes or no.  With reference to key performance indicators, he sought clarity on whether the AGSA could beforehand determine whether targets would be achievable or too ambitious by using the principles of usefulness and reliability. Or was there any principle that could be invoked to determine the possibility or impossibility of achieving targets? Did the AGSA find the recommendations to achieve certain targets satisfactory?

Ms T Kenye (ANC) sought clarity on what factors Members could look at in relation to key matters to determine that performance lacked supporting information. What were types of revenue that could have been collected?

Mr A Figlan (DA), with reference to audit findings history, sought clarity on the meaning of compliance findings and significant findings.

Ms D Raphuti (ANC) commented that the AGSA was not just a barometer but a structure that could also guide the departments. She sought clarity on good governance and asked what was the role of the AGSA on this.  How often did AGSA consult with the departments?

Ms SJ Nkomo (IFP) appreciated the AGSA’s work since 1994. It had proved that it was taking its work seriously. She sought clarity on how the AGSA determined factors to look at its auditing exercise.

The Chairperson sought clarity on what “other key performance” entailed.

Mr Mooloo responded that the AGSA came up with the programme of pro-active audit under which it approached the auditing matter by looking at whether all targeted issues had been addressed and by determining the usefulness of them. Usually the AGSA interrogated the final document to see whether it touches on all issues of APP. The timeline when the audit could be done was set and auditing could not go beyond February.

With reference to how the AGSA determined factors to be taken into account, Mr Mooloo responded that the AGSA did not decide on these factors. Rather the AGSA followed the criteria set out as international standards of auditing. There were however some other standards that were set out by certain institutions that could be used. These standards ought to have achieved an international recognition, that is, they can also be used to provide an acceptable opinion.

Concerning other key matters, he explained it was especially important to engage with issues related to human resources and procurement. These were essential and crucial matters to evaluate Departments or entities’ performance. He noted that outside the normal scope of audit, the AGSA could give a general overview of the performance of the public sector. Auditing usually started in October.  In the auditing process, the AGSA engaged with stakeholders on a weekly basis. There was always an interim audit from February which focussed on internal control and looking at measures that could be taken in that respect.

The Chairperson commented that the presentation enlightened the members to such a degree that there were confident to evaluate the DHA’s presentation on its APP. He said that the Committee would be calling the AGSA to advise the Committee on APP oversight from time to time. 

Ms Nkomo sought clarity on whether Members could attend the meetings of SCOPA when the DHA would be appearing before it. The attendance was not to engage but rather to follow the discussions.

The Chairperson replied that there was no problem in attending other Committee sittings, except the Committee on intelligence or state security. These issues were traditionally not open to public.

Deputy Minister on the Home Affairs Annual Performance Plan 2015/16 & Audit
Ms Fatima Chohan, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs apologised on behalf of Minister Malusi Gigaba for his absence due to an operation conducted on his leg. Without further ado, she handed to Mr Mkuseli Apleni, Director General, to take the Committee through presentation.

Mr Mkuseli Apleni, Director General, noted that the presentation would present the Committee with the commitment the DHA had made to achieving national outcomes and plans; the vision of Home Affairs and the strategies it was implementing to achieve its goals, highlights of its Strategic Plan for 2015-2020 and the Annual Performance Plan for 2015-2016.

Mr Apleni noted that the government had set out 14 outcomes. Out of 14, four fell within the scope of the DHA. They included to make all people in South Africa feel safe, to ensure decent employment through inclusive economic growth, to ensure effective and developmental orientated public services and to ensure nation building and social cohesion. In an effort to achieve these outcomes, the DHA established the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) for 2015-2020 that encompassed strategies including to defend, protect, secure, and manage South Africa’s borders effectively; to provide identity of all persons in South Africa, to eliminate unnecessary regulatory borders, to increase responsiveness of public servants and accountability to citizens.

He noted that the DHA would contribute to National Developmental Plan (NDP) 2030 by a way of confronting the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment, aiming at achieving higher growth. A priority would be given to facilitating the acquisition of the critical skills needed for economic growth and thus building South Africa’s own skills base.

Referring to the APP 2015-16, Mr Apleni noted that the APP was organised around three DHA outcomes or programmes, each of which was supported by a number of strategic objectives. They were Citizen Affairs, Administration, and Immigration Affairs. In terms of these three programmes, nine objectives with 36 targets were established. However, all targets were not achieved satisfactorily in the previous year. He commented that the Immigration Affairs programme objectives were still underfunded. The objective to well manage and efficiently document refugees and asylum-seekers was not a success. Thus the DHA would be working with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) as from June 2015 to improve international cooperation regarding asylum-seekers and refugees. With regard to issuance of temporary residence visas and permanent residence permits, there were risks but the DHA was committed to issue permanent resident permits to applicants with critical skills or general work visas or business visas.

On enhancing immigration affairs, Mr Apleni stated that the DHA envisaged introducing two Bills: Refugees Amendment Bill 2015 and Border Management Agency Bill 2015. The former would address processes and procedures relating to, among others, the adjudication, review and appeal processes insofar as it pertains to asylum seekers and refugees whereas the latter would establish the Border Management Agency (BMA).

Mr Apleni outlined the annual budget for 2015/16 (R6.45 billion) and its allocation in accordance to the three programmes. He finally explained the Audit Action Plan which was based on findings relevant to resources, assets, accruals, commitments and leave management. He elaborated on issues of revenue, stating the challenges encountered by the DHA in cooperating with the Department of International Relations and Co-operations (DIRCO) as they pertain to signing lease agreements and monetary transfers. These challenges were resolved through establishment of a baseline transfer to DIRCO and signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between them. He believed that the baseline transfer would ease some financial difficulties.

At this stage the Deputy Minister departed.

The Chairperson noted that the Director General did not mention anything about Government Printing Works (GPW) though there might be a good reason why he did not mention it.

Mr Hoosen welcomed the presentation and provided remarks about the positive outcomes. The outcomes reminded him remarks he had raised in previous meetings which had been taken seriously. He was encouraged with the effort to address frontline services in serving clients. However, he was not seeing something that convinced him that things were going to get better in terms of delivering services. He had received complaints from people the bulk of which were about the failure to get a response from DHA. He agreed with the training programme but wondered for how long the training was going to take place. He raised his concerns about visa applications to the VFS agency which had become problematic with regard to contacting the DHA directly. He sought clarity on what measures that were being taken by the DHA to ensure that the VFS was running efficiently.

Mr Hoosen stated that looking at the figures of the number of issued IDs was in itself encouraging. What was the timeframe under which the entire population would be issued with smart IDs? With regards to biometrics and points of entry, he sought clarity on whether applicants could appear in person. He further sought clarity on importing critical skills whereby Mr Apleni stated that it would take three months to approve such an application and that it would take eight months to approve a permanent residence permit. On this issue, he suggested that critical skills should be taken seriously. Drawing on the fact that last year 20 000 critical skills that were needed, were not achieved, what was the target for 2015-16? Finally, he sought clarity on how pending disciplinary cases were addressed and whether the DHA hired a consultant company to conduct internal auditing. If yes, how did the said company and internal audit committee collaborate?

Ms N Mnisi (ANC) thanked the DG for an informative presentation and their hard work. She sought clarity on the establishment of the BMA, especially whether the DHA had engaged with non-governmental organisations. What was the role of the Department of Defence in terms of securing the borders? Was there
any synergy between the two departments? If yes, could he define the relationship? How did the APP attempted to address the low targets of the last annual financial year? What were the financial implications related to conducting internal audit with regard to embassies?

Ms Mnisi sought clarity on rolling out the smart ID card through alternative channels such as banks and what would be the last day of issuing green ID books. She sought clarity on the number of corruption cases that were won and lost by the HDA. Finally, she asked if the reduction in the budget would not severely impact on service delivery.

Ms Kenye welcomed the presentation. She sought clarity on how the objectives were aligned to the State of the Nation Address (SONA). What were its challenges in relation to assisting national economic growth? Could immigration flow help in acquiring the needed critical skills? With regard to improvement of electronic records, she sought clarity on how information would be secured.

Ms Raphuti thanked the DHA for issuing its periodic newsletter. She sought clarity on an applicant with critical skills whose application could be deal with within three months. She commented that that approach was too risky because it could invite bogus professionals. Three months was too short to verify an applicant. On professionalising the DHA, she sought clarity on the curriculum that was followed, the type of certificate that was awarded, and which institution that certificate would be linked to. She commented that the vetting process was critical and thus sought clarity on whether a time frame could be given to verify the people whose application for visas were still pending. She believed the country’s security could be jeopardised. 

Mr Figlan sought clarity on how the DHA assisted people whose ID books were stolen or whose statuses were recorded as “married” when single. How did the DHA deal with the category of people who were above 30 years but who were yet to be issued with ID books.

The Chairperson commented that the issue of an inspectorate was key to the security of the country and suggested that the Committee would like to see the DHA putting more effort into that matter. The question of vetting ought to be looked into urgently because documentation could be done without proper verification. Within three months, the Committee would like to see more vigorous attention on the vetting process.

Mr Apleni replied that the issuance of the smart card would, more or less, take seven years. Concerning movement of persons in and out of the country, this was managed according to a risk-based approach. It needed capacitating of the Inspectorate to support enforcement of the legislation. However, the DHA needed a budget of more than seven billion from the National Treasury to do its work effectively.

On the GPW, he stated that the GPW was funded separately. The DHA did not receive its funding.

On vetting, Mr Apleni said the Departments of Police and of Defence had more powers around the issue of vetting and it was not a matter that could be left to the DHA only. Normally, the DHA collected and submitted cases for vetting to these departments and after submission, matters were beyond its reach.

On the attitudes of the DHA frontline staff, he said that it was something that was bothering him too.
That is why he was trying all his best to go to the staff and tell them that it was a time that the DHA pass that level of training and mentoring because everyone in the Department was already equipped with knowledge and knew what to do. It was a time for those who could not deliver, to face consequences. They ought to be fired.

On the issue of responding without undue delay, Mr Apleni responded that most of the calls were directed to the established call centre. And what the Call Centre could do was to allocate a reference number to a client for follow up. It was highly likely that most of the clients needed a direct solution/response to their queries but not a reference number. A solution could not be given by people in the Call Centre. That was a major problem.

On working hours, he said that the DHA set out the hours that should be adhered to by both staff and managers. Managers ought to be there when the offices were opened and closed. However this approach was being challenged by unions. Still the DHA was implementing it because it would improve service to the people. It appeared that when people were left in the queue at the end of the day, they were turned away by junior managers because they could not take certain decisions when senior managers left.

Mr Apleni said that the conversion of ID green book into smart ID cards had been initiated. Banks would help to roll out this initiative but the DHA was asking itself the question of how many banks that would help to see the initiative a success by the end of annual financial year. It was problematic that one machine could produce only 28 smart ID cards per day. It was difficult to determine the success of the smart ID card in the 2015/16 financial year. That might be possible in the 2016/17 annual financial year. The DHA would set out the number of smart ID cards that would be issued per day and would provide the resources to have the card linked with both DHA and banks. The connection mechanism was not the bank’s responsibility. It would take seven years to reach the overall target.

With regard to biometrics, Mr Apleni responded that it was necessary to apply in person. Until the issue of risk management was implemented, applying in person would be the only measure to follow. However not all countries were required to apply for visas. In that case, biometrics would be taken at port of entry. There was a risk of allowing people to enter and sojourn in the country without taking their finger prints. They might commit crimes and leave without being detected. He reminded Members of the case of Ms Samantha Lewthwaite.

With regard to importing critical skills and the issue of bogus professionals, he responded that the DHA works closely with the Department of Labour and professional councils. The Department of Labour was the first port of entry in the South African labour market. The DHA had resolved that the critical skills visa should not take too long to finalise. The finalisation included police clearance. There was an engagement between the DHA and the Department of Police. The target for critical skills was not clearly set. Three months might look as if there was risk involved but if all measures put in place were adhered to, there would be no risk. Critical skills were needed to grow the economy. The visa of an applicant with critical skills must be finalised within three months for the period of five years. 

On the internal committee audit, Mr Apleni replied that members of that committee were not employee of the DHA. They were therefore listed as consultants.

On disciplinary cases, Mr Apleni replied that the process was too long and complicated. People could appeal against decision and seek a review of decisions.

On the BMA, he said that the DHA would engage with stakeholders and would ensure that all concerned and interested persons had given their inputs. The role of the Department of the Defence was to protect the integrity of the country, including controlling the borderline. But it was the responsibility of the DHA to ensure that the movement of the people in and out of the country was well managed. In that context, the BMA would ensure that the borders are, for example, fenced so people use the port of entry. Under the BMA legislation, the 12 nautical mile rule would be enforced by the DHA whereas the Department of Defence would deal with the areas beyond 12 nautical miles.

Mr Apleni commented that in his engagement with Eskom, it had complained that it could not get critical skills due to legal hurdles. It transpired that it was employing people who applied for a visitor’s visa. For application of critical skills, they had to go back home, apply, and if accepted, return. They did not follow the proper route. Many things are, in law, not checked because a person is just visiting. A critical skills person is subject to a number of requirements, including verifying qualifications.

On the issue of providing ID green books to those who lost them or with duplicates, the DHA issues various communications to reach South Africans to come and collect them. The status of a person – whether married or single – can be checked online. But people were not checking their statuses. How could a person claim to be 52 years old without an identity document?

Mr B Nesi (ANC) sought clarity on whether all foreign nationals who applied for visas but whose verification was still pending, would be stopped at the border. Only those who the vetting process proves not to be a threat to national security, should be allowed in the country.

The Chairperson echoed this view by stating that foreign nationals might be involved in various crimes like the botched hijacking of which Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, was a victim.

Mr Apleni responded that vetting was being dealt with. It was a matter which was not under the carpet but on top of table. In response to such worries and fears, the DHA sought to introduce the BMA legislation to deal with the border. The major problem the DHA was facing was deportation. People were deported but came back. And deportation was expensive. He identified the asylum system as a contributory factor to the problem. Economic migrants were using that system to legalise their stay. The issue here was how to deal with unskilled economic migrants. To deal with immigration, South Africa needed to ensure that the inspectorate is well resourced or else, tourism would be frustrated. The country would be allowing a situation under which people could come here without detection, commit serious crimes and leave our shores. Foreign nationals were welcome in the country but they ought to verified, controlled and monitored for security reasons.

Mr Vusimuzi Mkhize, Deputy Director General: Civic Services, explained that 54 days for the issuing of an identity document applied to the green ID book but not the smart ID card. He noted that there was difficulty in issuing green ID book to people who had both parents deceased thereby making difficult to trace their roots.

The Chairperson sought clarity on when the DHA would stop from printing and issuing the green ID book.

Mr Apleni replied that it was difficult to declare a day on which there would be no more green ID books. He cited an example where learners needed an ID for them to be allowed to write national exams. It was difficult to issue these learners with smart ID cards.

On the issue of VFS, Mr Jackson McKay, Deputy Director General: Immigration Services, explained how unscrupulous immigration companies had made multiple bookings and had turned these bookings into a business. These companies had been abusing the system resulting in difficulties to book people to meet with the DHA officials. Hence there were no timely slots to allocate to them. The DHA was trying its best to resolve the matter. The matter was under investigation.

Mr McKay explained that the application for permanent residence, especially applicants with critical skills, general work skills and business aspirations, was a priority and could be finalised within eight months. With regards to importing critical skills, the old law vested the power in DHA to verify the authenticity of professionals but now it was being dealt with by professional bodies, the Department of Labour, and other relevant institutions.

Ms Nkidi Dinah Mohoboko, DHA Deputy Director-General: Learning Academy and Human Resources, replied about the disciplinary cases. In 2014/15, 46 cases were reported. Out of 46, 18 were settled. Out of 18, eight were suspended without pay and three final warnings were issued. In 17 cases, the defendants were not found guilty on the basis of insufficient evidence. From 2010 to 2015, the disciplinary cases seemed to be higher. 456 cases were reported. Only three or four of them were found guilty. In 61 cases, defendants were not guilty. In 91 cases, defendants were not found guilty due to insufficient evidence. More than 200 cases were dismissed.

On the cadets, Ms Mohoboko stated that the cadets should not be viewed as addressing youth development. It was a programme that covered unemployed graduates who come from disadvantaged communities. The age group was between 18 and 35. It looked however as if the older they became, they did not want to learn anymore because the existing intake was aged between 18 and 27. The programme was centred on the provision of theoretical training, coupled with practical work that would empower them to work in civics and immigration. The content of certification was NQF5 that combined various subjects: fundamental, compulsory and elective.

The Chairperson thanked all the speakers and stated that there was no time left to deal with the issue of SCOPA. He reiterated that the issue of introducing and empowering an inspectorate should be accelerated as it would ensure the safety and security of the country.

The meeting was adjourned.

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