Municipal Electoral Amendment Bill [B22B-15]: IEC briefing; Home Affairs on its 2014/15 Annual Report

NCOP Health and Social Services

24 November 2015
Chairperson: Ms L Dlamini (ANC; Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was briefed by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) on its performance and financial activities for 2014/15. The Minister for Home Affairs, who led the delegation, talked about the major broadband network problem Home Affairs faced in its operations that year which was supposed to be provided and managed by the State Information Technology Agency (SITA). He stated in very strong terms that SITA had not lived up to expectations and it had impacted negatively on the efficiency and service delivery of the DHA. The Minister was not happy that Home Affairs was not getting the desired attention it deserved from government. He was of the view that the DHA should be considered as the backbone of the government. He buttressed his point by talking about the smart ID being rolled out by DHA for South African citizens which could make governance much easier. A major achievement of the DHA was the fact that it performed better in its audit, moving from a disclaimer to a qualified audit opinion.

The Director General highlighted the targets set and the various levels of achievement of those set targets. It was important to note that in cases where there was a performance level of 97% -99%, this was regarded as under achievement. If it is not a 100% performance then DHA considers it under performance. The Chairperson was particularly impressed with this attitude and remarked it showed Home Affairs was striving for total excellence in its service delivery drive. DHA has proposed a few measures as the way forward in tackling some of the challenges facing it. Most prominent is the engagement with the Ministry of Telecommunications and Postal Services to request an exemption from the SITA-provided network so it can be hosted by an alternative service provider.

The Deputy Director General on Finance told the Committee that DHA had a 100% performance in its budget expenditure. All allocated funds were spent for the projects to which they were allocated and DHA had no case of unauthorised spending or extra-budgetary spending.

The Municipal Electoral Amendment Bill was presented and there was a general agreement about the urgency of passing the Bill into law. At the same time the Committee was reminded of the importance of following all legal processes in processing the Bill.


Meeting report

The Chairperson, in welcoming the Minster of Home Affairs, expressed happiness at the progress being made by the Department of Home Affairs.

Department of Home Affairs (DHA) on its 2014/15 Annual Report 
Mr Malusi Gigaba, the Minister of Home Affairs stated that the annual performance report was aimed at showing the progress been made as regards the mandate of DHA. Its core function is the management of immigration and tracking of South Africans from birth. The report also aimed to show how the finance of the department had been managed. Talking about the smart ID card project, the Minister stated that 70 offices were converted to smart offices at the beginning of the project. By the end of March 2015, 140 had already been converted to live capture centres. The challenges faced by DHA are numerous but finance was one of the most challenging. A total of 408 offices were to be converted to live capture centres. Staff capacity was also a challenge. A major challenge and perhaps the most difficult was that of broadband network supply by the State Information Technology Agency (SITA). Uninterrupted supply of reliable network is needed for the efficient performance of DHA but this had not been the case. The non-cooperation of SITA with DHA had greatly affected the performance of DHA and this had portrayed DHA as department of non-competent people. An offline mode was designed which worked sometimes though at a very slow pace. The Minister emphasised the importance of the smart ID card for the elections. Speaking further, he remarked that that DHA under his leadership has zero tolerance for corruption. In collaboration with the police, 30 DHA officials had been dismissed and prosecuted for corruption related offences. He concluded by saying DHA is now more focused and oriented towards professionalism.

Mr Mkuseli Apleni, DHA Director General, made the presentation, noting its vision of a safe, secure South Africa where all of its people are proud of and value their identity and citizenship. DHA contributes directly to four of the 14 outcomes of government: people in South Africa are and feel safe; decent employment through inclusive economic growth; an efficient effective and development oriented public service and nation building and social cohesion. Strategic objectives included ensuring all eligible citizens were issued with enabling documents relating to identity and status and that refugees and asylum seekers were managed and documented efficiently, and lastly, the movement of persons in and out of the country were regulated according to a risk based approach. The outcome is a secured and responsive immigration system.

Organisational performance in 2014/15 showed a 70% achievement of goals. This was an improvement from 2013/14 where there was 53% performance. The Administration programme had a performance of 81%; Civic Services achieved a performance of 43%, and Immigration 67%. Civic Services had 704 527 births registered within 30 days of birth against the target of 694 000. A total of 1 638 387 smart ID cards were issued against the target of 1.6 million. A programme known as the Moetepele Leadership Programme was launched by the Minister to challenge DHA leadership to ensure all clients have and enjoy excellent service. To achieve this, a front office toolkit was implemented in local offices to improve front office operations including change in operation hours. DHA’s service charter was also approved and launched. New immigration regulations were introduced in support of a risk based approach to immigration, An online system for the verification of asylum seekers and refugee permits was implemented with key financial institutions. For the processing of applications and reduction in queues at frontline offices, 11 Visa Facilitation Services centres (VFS) were opened nation-wide as well as 11 additional centres such as in India, China and Nigeria. The VFS also assisted with the Zimbabwe Special Dispensation project. A total of 62% of business, critical skills and general work visas were finalised within the eight weeks turnaround time.

The major challenge being faced by DHA is that of service delivery being disrupted by unreliable IT networks and power supply and this affects the delivery of services particularly to the automated offices. Funding limitation in equipping offices to meet demand in some areas and the limitations of rented offices were responsible for the long queues at the live capture offices. Network failures also contributed to these long queues. Another challenge is that the biometric system infrastructure has reached its end of life and environmental factors at the hosting site also caused downtimes. Capacity shortages at the Standing Committee for Refugee Affairs (SCRA) and the Refugee Appeal Board (RAB) resulted in reviews and appeals for asylum claims not finalised in time. There were also time delays in receiving documentation from the missions. Supporting documentation did not always tally with the information in the accounting records and some balances dating back to April 2004 had no available supporting documentation.

Strategic priorities for DHA in its medium term strategic framework (MTSF 2014 – 2019) include:
- Establishing an integrated Border Management Agency (BMA)
- Developing an over-arching strategy and sub-strategies to secure and ensure well-managed borders.
- Ensuring registration at birth is the only entry point for South Africans to the new national identity system
- Design and operation of the national identity system (NIS)
- Ensuring systems are in place to capture biometric data of all travellers who enter or exit SA legally
- Develop an immigration policy approved by cabinet
- Reducing the time required for importing critical skills needed for the economy
- Improving feedback avenues for citizens and other service users by establishing a DHA contact centre.

DHA had a strategic objective to develop a national identity system according to specification, this was not totally achieved. The design was developed but the implementation was not possible because the contract between DHA and the service provider was not signed. There was also a target to complete a technical testing of the NIS, this also was not achieved.

There was a target to train 90% of newly appointed officials before the commencement of services, this target was also not met. There was a 74% attendance for training over the four quarters of 2014/15. Every other target set by DHA regarding its administration in 2014/15 was met.

DHA paid a lot of attention to birth registration in the closing financial year. There was a target to have 694 000 births registered within 30 calendar days of birth, this was achieved and a total of 704 527 births were registered within 30 days of birth during the review period. Measures were also put in place to stop or reduce the late registration of births between 31 days to 14 years.

1 600 000 smart ID cards were targeted for issuance to citizens aged 16 and above, this was achieved and the total number of smart ID cards actually issued was 1 656 669. There was a target of issuing 95% of IDs within 54 working days for applications within South Africa from the date of receipt of the application. This target was not met, only 86.7% of IDs were issued within the 54 working days window. A total of 41 0042 IDs were issued in 54 working days and 63 036 after 54 working days. A total of 473 078 IDs were issued. These IDs were all cases of first issue. For re-issues, there was a target of 95% to issue such IDs within 47 working days after receipt of application. This target was also not met. 92.3% of this target was met. 376 340 IDs were issued in 47 working days while 31 461 were not. A total of 407 801 IDs were re-issued during 2014/15. There was a target to issue 95% of machine readable passports (MRP) within 24 working days, this was also not achieved. Only 94.1% of the MRP passports were issued within the time frame

On immigration affairs, there was a target was to issue 50% of refugee IDs within 90 calendar days from date of application. This was achieved. 6 811 applications were received and 4 156 dispatched within 90 days showing a 61% achievement for the year. For refugee travel documents, the target was to issue 80% of the documents within 90 calendar days but this was not achieved. 3 644 applications were received and only 630 were dispatched representing a 17.2% achievement. For permanent residence applications, the target was to adjudicate 50% of all applications within eight months but this was not achieved. Only 36.8% of permanent residence applications were finalised within eight months. The target for the processing of all business, critical skills and general work related permits within eight weeks was achieved.

For the provinces, there was a target to have a high impact DHA led outreach programme, at least one per quarter, per province to assist with birth registration and ID collection. This was achieved. Also, in the provinces, employers who broke the law as regards the employment of people without the required work permits were charged. Transgressors of departmental legislation were also charged and the target to deport undocumented foreigners directly within 30 calendar days was achieved. The target to transfer 100% of undetected foreigners to Lindela within 20 calendar days was not achieved. Only 97% of undocumented foreigners were transferred. Over the years there had been cases of fraudulent marriages and a target was set to deal with such cases in 2014/15, this target was met. Due to capacity problems, the100% target of determining the status of asylum seekers within three months was not achieved, as there was a performance of 89%. The target of 100% compliance with PFMA regulations for payment of invoices within 30 days was not achieved as there was a performance of 92%.

Mr Gordon Hollamby, DHA Deputy Director General: Finance, presented the financial performance report. DHA moved from a disclaimer to a qualified audit opinion in 2014/15. The total budget was R7 223 702 000 and there was total expenditure of R7 223 328 000, R374 000 was returned back to Treasury as unspent funds. This shows a 100% implementation of the 2015/15 budget. There was no case of over spending. A breakdown of the figures showed that Administration gulped R1 949 055 000 of the budget, Civic Services spent R4 553 147 000 and Immigration spent R721 126 000. The financial performance report showed that all the provinces spent 100% of their budgets.

To address the qualified audit findings, a high level audit action plan has been developed. National Treasury has given approval to DHA to transfer the function of collecting foreign revenue to the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) on the basis of an agent-principal relationship. This has not successfully taken off due to some misunderstanding between the Auditor-General and DHA. However, efforts are been made to resolve this. From 1 April 2015, the cost of living expenditure relating to DHA officials posted abroad had been transferred to DIRCO with approval from National Treasury. DIRCO is now responsible for accounting for such expenditure. Also, the register of intangible capital assets has been updated and supporting documentation obtained. The register will be audited during the interim audit.

On further interventions, there is a monthly checklist to be linked to the audit findings. The quality of the interim financials of September 2015 is to be checked by the internal audit. The audit action plan was finalised by 31 October 2015 and an audit de-briefing meeting with managers was held on 7 October 2015.

DHA has proposed a few measures as the way forward in tackling some of the challenges facing it. Most prominent is the engagement with the Ministry of Telecommunications and Postal Services to request an exemption from the SITA-provided network so it can be hosted by an alternative service provider.

Ms T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (DA) thanked the Minister for the progress made by DHA under his leadership. She remarked that the front desk reception now given at DHA was an improvement and service delivery was more efficient. On SITA, she asked what measures were being put in place to address this. On the funding of Immigration, she asked if there was a plan to increase the budget in the next financial year.

Mr M Khawula (IFP) asked the Minister what happens to the Green Book when it gets replaced by the smart ID. On voting stations, he remarked that there was a clash of interest since some of the people in charge have ties to the ruling party. He asked how that will be dealt with. With respect to the budget, he observed there was no tally in the budget with the population size of each province and asked for an explanation.

Ms L Zwane (ANC) stated that the broadband problem being faced by DHA can have dire consequences for SA and therefore called for an urgent intervention in that area. She appreciated the resolve of the Minister to fight corruption head on in DHA and encouraged him not to relent in his efforts. She asked what DHA was doing about employment of people with disability and how many had been employed by DHA. She was impressed with how quickly it took to get her smart ID but remarked that a few people who did not have cell phones might not know when their cards are ready as the means of communicating was by sms. She asked DHA to look into that. On marriages of convenience, she wanted more information about what DHA was doing about it and also on the employment of foreigners without the requisite permit. She also asked for more detail on the collaboration of the police and DHA to curb human trafficking.

The Chairperson responded to the Members saying some of the issues they raised would need to be dealt with in subsequent presentations. She noted that DHA had improved and done well in the last financial year and they deserved to be commended for a job well done. She was particularly happy with the attitude of the workers and with service delivery. However, she noted that the presence of security officials at the front desk attending to people was not proper and they ended up giving wrong information on the services provided by DHA. She suggested that they be given formal training on the workings of DHA. On funding, she remarked that the Committee will assist in every way it can to see that there is increased funding to DHA.

In his response, the Minister stated that it was not proper for one arm of government to speak ill of another arm of government but he was going to talk negatively about SITA. He said DHA is being frustrated by SITA and it was affecting its performance. He mentioned that several letters had been written and several discussions held but SITA has not discharged its role properly. To address the issue, he said a deviation is being sought from Cabinet so that DHA can get its broadband network from elsewhere. Discussions are in progress with Telkom in this regard.

In the rural areas, DHA is facing serious challenges in terms of human capacity and a pilot scheme is being designed to tackle this. When this scheme is finally rolled out, it will help DHA in spreading its services away from the central offices so that everyone can have access to DHA services, especially people in rural areas.

On the budget, he stated that there was no plan to increase funding and this will remain so for the next three years. He lamented that the government sees DHA as just a visa, birth and death certificate office but in a real sense DHA is the backbone of the government. He was of the view that until the government changed that perception it had about DHA, DHA will remain unappreciated.

On the Green Book, he stated that the book is taken and destroyed once the smart ID has been issued to a person. If the smart ID goes missing then, it is disabled before a new one is issued. This is used as a security precautionary measure.

Responding to the comment about the personnel at the voting stations, he said it was almost impossible to find apolitical individuals but there is an opportunity for complaint against anyone whose integrity appears compromised and such people would not be allowed to handle such responsibility.

On the question about the budget and provincial population, he replied that the budget is not allocated based on population figures.

On the security personnel raised by the Chairperson, he replied that the security personnel had no business with service delivery hence they would not be trained for such and they have to be confined to their duties of protecting members of the public at the various DHA centres.

The Chairperson in her final remarks suggested that more women should be given leadership roles in DHA and the Minister replied that women are regarded as top priority and when any leadership role opens up, women will be considered first for filling such a position.

Municipal Electoral Amendment Bill briefing
Mr Mosotho Moepya, Chief Electoral Officer of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), remarked that the presentation of the Bill was going to be a short one because the Bill was still “work in progress”. The Bill seeks to give more credibility to polls conducted at all levels in South Africa. The Bill has seven clauses. The Bill will enable the IEC to generate electronic and manual candidate nomination documents and party lists. This means that candidates will also be able to pay electoral participation deposits electronically instead of submitting bank guaranteed cheques. The Bill is also expected to make party candidate lists more transparent. The Bill’s enactment will pave the way for the reissue of ballot papers to voters when they make a material error or "want to change their mind". But this will only be allowed if the paper is not released into a ballot box. The amendment further gives the authority to prescribe the number of times a voter may return a ballot whilst being conscious to section 19 of the Constitution.

In the Bill it is proposed that an independent candidate must, together with his or her nomination documents provide the Commission with a recent photograph in a form prescribed by the Commission. The amendments also seek to clarify the uncertainty surrounding the determination and declaration of election results which are related to by-elections. The Bill requires that the chief electoral officer notifies the relevant authorities where a particular candidate is being nominated by more than one person and to give the opportunity to change that candidate.

Mr Moepya highlighted the need for the amendments to be passed into law as soon as possible and he also remarked that election staff members needed adequate training in preparation for the forthcoming elections.

The Chairperson asked Dr Barbara Loots, the parliamentary legal adviser, what was necessary to speed up the passage of the Bill.

Dr Loots emphasised the need for a quick passage of this priority Bill. She however cautioned that all legal processes must be followed in the attempt to speed up the passage of the Bill. Public participation is necessary, though this does not have to be a public oral presentation but could be in the form of written submissions. If the Bill is passed without fulfilling that constitutional requirement then it may be challenged in the courts and all the work done would have been in vain. She emphasised that there must be a call for public participation by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

The Chairperson replied that the Committee had plans to call for public participation and submissions on the Bill earlier in the month but the industrial strike embarked on by the staff of Parliament made it impossible. She asked the Committee if they preferred to have the work on the Bill done in mid December or early next year when Parliament resumes stressing the need for the early completion of work on the Bill.

Ms T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (DA; Western Cape) raised a point of order about the quorum of the Committee. No decision could be made that day as the constitutional requirement of a quorum was not met since some members were absent. She proposed that a date be chosen in January 2016 and this be communicated to all members so a decision could be made quickly about the call for public participation. Ms L Zwane (ANC) seconded her motion.

The Chairperson agreed with their positions and adjourned the meeting.



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