Department of Home Affairs on 2015/16 2nd & 3rd Quarter performance

Home Affairs

23 February 2016
Chairperson: Mr B Mashile (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) briefed the Committee on its Second and Third Quarter 2015/16 Expenditure and Performance Reports. After briefly summarising the DHA’s vision, mission and values, outcomes and strategic objectives slides were presented on progress achieved in July-December against targets, the ten major challenges in this period and overall performance results, per branch and per programme, with comparisons to previous figures. The DHA conceded that it had performed poorly against targets in terms of registration of births, which was problematic and Members agreed that this was one of the core mandates of the DHA. However there had been good progress in reaching targets set for days to issue ID documents and sort out problems. The Immigration Amendment Act had addressed the travellers' and minors' entry, and the Enhanced Movement Control System had been rolled out in seven ports. The Border Management Agency Bill was approved for introduction to Parliament. Challenges in the period included the unreliability of the network connection, which led not only to difficulties in birth registrations but some travellers not being checked as they entered at the border posts. Manual IDs and passport issuance was still slow, but the DHA was trying to ensure that refugees could get documents at any office. Overall DHA had achieved 68% of targets; with 64% achieved in the second quarter and 72% in the third quarter. Ten targets were noted as “at risk” and there would be greater focus on them. The financial performance figures showed at 80.1% of budget, or R5.1 billion, had been spent, slightly in excess of the target of 75% but there was low spending on employees, because of high staff turnover and vacant posts, but a higher allocation to the Independent Electoral Commission, machinery and equipment. R503 million revenue was collected. The instability of the exchange rate, participation in Operation Fiela and payment of accruals in the Advanced Processing Passenger system contributed also. Despite pressures on the budget, DHA intended to continue to enhance performance and build modern systems.

Members asked what DHA was doing to fight corruption and the DHA emphasised that it was emphasising to clients and staff that there would be zero tolerance. Marriages between foreign nationals and citizens, or refugees, needed to be monitored. They asked about the lack of collaboration between departments particularly at the borders. Members pointed out that sometimes cultural practices delayed the registration of births and the DHA had to be sensitive to this. The stricter requirements for birth registration were explained and the discussions and suggestions put to the Department of Social Development and Basic Education were outlined.  Members asked about high staff turnover. One Member was concerned that Operation Fiela seemed to be targeting only other African nationals, and although the Chairperson did not agree with the way the question was phrased, he did ask that figures be produced in due course to confirm which other nationals were being deported. Members were also insistent that the DHA needed to step up its awareness campaigns, its network difficulties, what was being done with the Department of Communications and how the poor working relationships in the provincial departments would be addressed.  Members were worried that there appeared to be a “culture” of poor performance in certain areas, and asked what was being done about the ongoing problems of duplicate IDs. They urged DHA to continue to liaise with National Treasury on the budget cuts and suggested that it seek the support of this Portfolio Committee. Members also questioned the DHA's involvement in game farm and cross-border issues and access, as well as facilities such as clinics that were open to communities in Swaziland. The court issues around the Lindela detentions and refugee offices were discussed. Members wanted a report on transfers during the budget discussions, and commented that the network issues and Automated Fingerprint System also required discussion and attention. 

Meeting report

Chairperson's Opening remarks
The Chairperson noted that the Department of Home Affairs (DHA or the Department) would be briefing the Committee on the performance in the second and third quarters of the 2015/2016 financial year. He commented that attempts to regulate the movement of non-citizens was challenging, and that illegal immigrants were everywhere in the country. Members could not deny that they did not interact with illegal immigrants in their daily activities. Many non-citizens did not have papers allowing them to stay in the country, nor had they used passports to gain entry. Others arrived in the country legally but they overstayed their visas.

Department of Home Affairs 2nd and 3rd quarter 2015 performance briefing
Mr Mkuseli Apleni, Director General, Department of Home Affairs, wished Members well for 2016 and appreciated the understanding that they showed to the challenges that the DHA was experiencing. He briefly outlined the DHA’s vision, mission and values and the DHA outcomes and strategic objectives. His presentation would address the progress achieved in July to December 2015 against objectives, and would set out the major challenges; overall performance (per branch and per programme) and financial performance.

Mr Apleni said that there was notable progress during the period of July to December 2015. There was a progress in reaching the targets of issuance of the IDs within 54 working days and re-issuance of IDs within 47 working days. Re-issuance of IDs involved those cases where the information was erroneously captured and clients returned IDs for corrections. Likewise, a flow of movement of travellers and minors’ entry were facilitated in terms of Regulation 6(12) to the Immigration Amendment Act, which came into operation on 1 June 2015. It was also noted that the Enhanced Movement Control System was rolled out at seven ports, namely Zanzibar, Boesmansnek, Mokopong, Monantsa Pass, Bray, Gemsbok and Makobistad. The draft of the Border Management Agency (BMA) Bill of 2015 was approved for introduction into Parliament. The Tshidilamolomo Community Crossing Point was officially opened on 8 December 2015.

3 145 illegal foreign nationals were arrested during 688 operations under the banner of Operation Fiela conducted over this time. The greatest numbers of foreign nationals arrested in operations were Zimbabweans, Malawians, Basotho and Mozambicans. He stressed that Basuthu people would not be deported. However, the DHA was committed to deporting illegal migrants.

Mr Apleni then noted the major challenges in this period. For both birth registration and the ID Smart Card, targets were not fully met due to unreliability of the network connection, unwillingness of parents to register their babies at hospitals and replacement of the Late Registration of Birth (LRB) process by a stricter regime. Other challenges include the failure of an interface between the DHA and Government Printing Work systems; under-developed visa systems; and manual and slow issuance of IDs and passports for refugees. In relation to issuance of IDs and passports to refugees, the DHA would be making it easier for refugees to go to apply for these documents to any DHA offices.

Mr Apleni noted that the DHA achieved a total of 53 targets representing 68% achievement rate and 25 targets were not achieved, representing 32% non-achievement rate. Generally, 64% of targets were achieved in the second quarter, whereas 72% of targets were achieved in the third quarter (see attachment for full details).

Mr Apleni noted 10 targets that were “at risk”. They included:
- Procurement of hardware for the development of new Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) in preparation for National Identity System (NIS)
- Training 80 New Cadets on nine unit standards.
- Implementation of the DHA contact centre solution
- Registration of births within 30 days
- Issuance of refugee travel documents within 90 days
- Ensuring well-managed borders
- Promulgation of BMA legislation
- Approval of report on installation of biometric system at three foreign missions
- Adjudication of permanent residence application with eight months.
- Payment of valid invoices within 30 days.

Mr Gordon Hollamby, Chief Financial Officer, DHA, took the Committee through the financial performance, comparing budget and expenditure as at 31 December 2015. Detailed expenditure per programme, per economic classification and per branch was provided. Revenue and self-financing activities were underscored. A budget of R5.1 billion was spent, representing 80.1% of the budget. In terms of the linear projections, the DHA should have been spending at 75% as at end of December 2015. However, there was a low spending on the compensation of employees, due to a high staff turnover in the DHA and in relation to departmental agencies and accounts, due to the monthly allocation to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) increasing towards Quarter Four. There was a high spending on machinery and equipment.

Mr Hollamby noted that an amount of R921.5 million was approved during the 2015 Adjusted Estimates of National Expenditure (AENE) process. The revenue collected was R503  576  000.

Mr Hollamby noted that the high expenditure was a result of the DHA’s participation in Operation Fiela and payment of accruals in respect of Advanced Processing Passenger (APP) as well as the instability of the exchange rate from the rand to dollar.

Mr Apleni then noted the priorities in the future. The DHA would ensure that service delivery standards were maintained at an acceptable level, in spite of pressures on the budget, while building modern systems. The identified five strategic priorities ought to be achieved. Finally, the DHA would be built with modern systems, professional staff and a sustainable organisational and funding model. He noted in conclusion that although the DHA is now part of the Security Cluster it is not equipped as well as other security departments, such as Departments of Police or of Defence.

The Chairperson sought clarity on issues related to fighting corruption.

Mr Apleni responded that the DHA was driven by a need to sensitise the clients to unlawfulness of bribing officials. The DHA is not out to trap its employees. It wanted rather to make both employees and clients understand that taking part in corruption activities was absolutely wrong and the DHA was committed to zero tolerance if a person was caught. Flyers contained information on fighting corruption were being distributed at DHA offices. Recently one of the officials in KwaZulu Natal was arrested for selling birth certificates to foreign nationals.

Mr Apleni also noted that some officials were being married to foreign nationals, and were being “used” by the foreign nationals to get papers. On a similar point, he said that the issue of an asylum-seeker or a refugee marrying a foreign national was a matter that also needed careful consideration.

The Chairperson sought clarity on the high staff turnover. He asked about the replacement of the LRB process by a stricter regime, and asked for clarity on the comment that it was a stricter regime, as also the poor performance on birth registrations. On the latter issue, he commented that an absence of improvement in the registration of children undermined the core objective of the DHA. Some communities did not allow a woman who gave birth to go out for 30 days and these traditional practices cut across various African communities. What was DHA planning to do, to address this situation? He also asked about the challenges of collaboration and sharing information classified as confidential.

Mr Apleni responded that lack of collaboration was one of the main reasons behind the establishment and attempts to deal with the BMA. This problem would be resolved by the BMA, if its legislation came into operation. The Cabinet was clear that the matter of collaboration ought to be regulated. Managing borders would no longer be the responsibility of one security department.

Mr Apleni then noted that in regard to the issuance of birth certificates, hospital services ought to be optimised. He was aware of cultural challenges around traditional practices, but insisted that South Africans lived in a world of technology where a mother could know whether she would give birth to a boy or girl. A name should be prepared in advance, so that it could be provided for a registration purpose. The registration would not affect the naming protocols and ceremony but should run alongside. For instance, Mr Apleni explained that he was a Xhosa, and in terms of Xhosa culture, it was the grandfather who should give a name to the first child of his son. It would be problematic if this tradition was not honoured, but any delay in naming and thus in registration of the birth could be avoided if a grandfather was asked what name he would be giving to the grandchild.

Mr Apleni noted that there was a huge problem of communication in the chain of management and between the DHA and clients. To address this problem, the DHA was offering training aimed at equipping provincial managers with communication knowledge and various managerial skills. Through these training sessions, the issue of decentralisation of activities was being addressed. Provincial managers should be able to change names or insert names in accordance with clients’ wishes. Applications for a name change or correction would be no longer sent to Pretoria but would be addressed at provincial level.

On the issue of a high staff turnover, Mr Apleni noted staff were leaving the DHA because they were offered better positions elsewhere, and recently he could confirm that for this reason the DHA had lost ten staff through resignations to move on. Two Deputy Director General positions were vacant and five positions for directors were to be filled. Likewise, provincial manager positions were in process of being filled. It was a bit more difficult to fill positions due to stricter regulations that were introduced. Candidates had to have the necessary and required skills. Competency was a precondition. Critical positions could be filled first. For avoidance of attrition, every time there was a resignation, a person who had resigned was asked to continue working until a replacement person had been found.

Explaining the new and stricter measures in relation to the registration of birth, Mr Apleni noted that failure to register birth within 30 days would result in parents having to pay a certain fee, and this would also involve screening and investigating committees to make recommendations to the Director-General. A screening process would involve interviews and verification of information. All these processes might further delay the registration of birth. The LRB was devised into four categories: the first category dealt with 31 days to one year from the date of birth; the second category involved children of between one and seven years, the third category dealt with the age group seven to fifteen years and the last dealt with those over 15. There were different stricter requirements laid down for each category.

Mr Apleni felt that other departments, such as Social Development and Basic Education, could play a major role in motivating parents to register their children. Parents who did not register their children should not be allowed to have access to social grants and elementary education. However, both these other departments argued that they could not impose such restrictions as they had the potential to deprive children of their constitutional rights to social assistance and education. Such measures would be inimical to the Constitution. The DHA's suggestion that both departments should only accept unregistered children subject to the provision of a birth certificate within two months was not welcomed. Any problems with access to public services made it harder to convince parents of the importance of registering their children.

On the issue of a low spending due to a high staff turn-over, Mr Apleni noted that bonuses would be paid in the fourth quarter. In addition, he repeated that there had been some staff who left the DHA to join other employers.

Ms O Hlophe (EFF) raised her concerns also about the high vacancy rate and sought clarity on when vacancies would be filled. She had an idea that the Operation Fiela targeted only foreign nationals from Africa, and sought clarity on whether illegal immigrants came from African countries only, since it seemed that the DHA was arresting African brothers and sisters but not arresting those from non-African countries. She sought clarity on how the new immigration regime was linked to the issues were being raised in the briefing. She felt that the DHA was doing little in terms of community outreach programmes, popularly known as Imbizo. Should there be enough Imbizo, people would be advised on the services being offered and how they could be accessed, and this could also address the challenges associated with provisions of such services. Awareness was absolutely essential. She finally sought clarity on penalties imposed on parents who do not register their children with 30 days.

Ms T Kenye (ANC) welcomed the presentation and sought clarity on what measures were taken to address the problem of parents who left hospitals without registering births, on whether doctors and nurses were cooperating, on the role of a nurse in relation to the registration of birth and the Department of Health in general. Ms Kenye wanted some clarity on network connections and collaboration with the Department of Communications. She sought detail as to why there was not achievement of the targets related to issuing the smart ID card, on transferring of the budget, low expenditure on human resources, and overspending for the two quarters in question.

Ms D Raphuti (ANC) raised her concerns about the hostilities that characterised the working environment at provincial level, more notably within provincial management. She asked whether hardware for the development of new AFIS could be procured in South Africa. She asked why the DHA was setting targets whilst knowing that it could not achieve them.

Mr A Figlan (DA) suggested that the Committee should invite all provincial managers to brief Members on the particular challenges they faced. He drew attention to the fact that the National Treasury had requested the DHA to cut its budget, and asked by how much it would be reduced. He sought clarity on the apparent DHA “culture” of non-performance, especially the reasons why it did poorly in the registration of birth, on Zimbabwean Special Dispensation Permit, and on a number of hospitals that were sitting without birth registration facilities or with non-operational DHA computers.

Mr B Nesi (ANC) felt that there should be an improvement in the Ministerial and departmental Imbizos, which could be used as a good platform to engage with communities on issues of concern. He sought clarity on how the DHA would achieve its core objectives, in the face of budget cuts and austerity measures. He raised a concern on the inaccessibility of game reserves to farm workers, even if they wanted to visit there to tend to sick relatives. Likewise, access was denied to police officers on the ground that the owners had their own security arrangements. He pointed out that many of these game reserves were owned by foreigners, but the South African government was losing physical access to them. He asked how the DHA could best assist in ensuring that this situation could be changed, and asked how DHA was addressing the problem of duplicate IDs.

Mr D Gumede (ANC) felt that the legislation regulating BMA was very important in addressing the conflict of interests between security departments. He was concerned about the budget cuts and said that the DHA should ask the Committee to support its request to keep the budget at the current levels. He agreed with earlier concerns expressed about communities who were living close to the borders and said that whilst these communities were separated by artificial borders, their bonds remained strong. In this way, Mphongolo community was sharing its clinic with other communities from Swaziland. It had transpired that if they were treated for communicable diseases such as TB, there could be no follow up in Swaziland, and they had to come back in South Africa for further medical check-ups. It was problematic for these clinics to serve all those communities, and he wondered how the DHA could intervene to resolve the problem?

The Chairperson sought clarity on why a correction of an ID document took so long, and why an applicant for an ID could be requested to provide copies each and every time he or she arrived at the DHA offices. He asked whether he could get a detailed report on financial expenditure of transferred money, and also on why transferred money was being classified as expenditure? He asked whether it was actually being spent, or if it was being held in accounts somewhere. He wondered what the stricter measures in relation to registration of birth were supposed to achieve?

The Chairperson indicated that the comment made by Ms Hlophe that the Operation Fiela targeted Africans was essentially a political remark and he was not comfortable with it. However, despite its political intent or nature, it was relevant in the sense that the Committee would also like to get clarity on the number of other non-African nationals that were arrested and deported. He noted that the Director General could not give a political comment or stance on this issue.

Mr Apleni responded that although he could not provide instantly the demographics of foreign nationals who were arrested and deported, he would like to make the point that all foreign nationals were targeted equally and that it was a fact that non-African nationals were also being arrested and deported.

Mr Apleni then moved on to the question about the network. It was difficult to go and procure a network with service providers though the South African State Information Technology Agency (SITA). The SITA Act laid down certain stringent requirements that should be met. In order to ensure acceleration of network connection, there was a need for the DHA to collaborate with the Department of Communications. There was an irregularity in the network connection because the DHA was required to adhere to the law, and the Committee was asked to try to assist in finding a solution to the enormity of the network problems. He pointed out that the network connection was unreliable to the degree that many foreigners got into the country without the required checks having been done. The DHA could not hold people at a port of entry if its network was not working through poor connectivity.
Mr Apleni noted that last year the DHA received more than10 000 applications that needed to be digitised and this could not be achieved without an adequate network. Network problems affected people with automated documents or smart ID cards because nothing could be done if the network was down.

Mr Apleni noted the comment on awareness and responded that the DHA would create awareness around public services that could be provided by the new established centres. There were Ministerial and departmental Imbizos, conducted by the Minister or Director General or Deputy Director Generals, but this did not preclude provincial managers also from conducting community outreach activities. Imbizos were necessary. For instance, voter registration was coming very soon and the DHA would be advising people on how to apply for temporary IDs.

Mr Apleni said that if the nation accepted that people could and should register their children when they were born, then it would not be necessary to feel sorry for anyone who faced a LRB fine. The had cooperative arrangements with other departments to ensure children were registered. Another critical issue was unwillingness of the people to register death, and that had an impact on South African population register.

Speaking to the human resource capacity, Mr Apleni agreed that the staff complement at the DHA was small, particularly when compared to the Departments of Police and Department of Correctional Services. The DHA indeed had insufficient human resources. Even SARS had more employees than the DHA. All these departments or entities served only a segment of the population, whereas the DHA served the whole South African population. The DHA had been collaborating with hospitals to ensure births were registered on time but there was no significant progress recorded, due to lack of resources. Even the National Treasury acknowledged that the DHA was experiencing insufficient financial and human resources to carry out its activities. The issue of registration was hugely problematic during public holidays and weekends. The DHA was not paying overtime, due to insufficient budget, and its officials were therefore unwilling to work on Sunday. If they took the DHA to court and the court ruled in favour of the employees, then it would have no choice other than to suspend the weekends and public holidays services.

Mr Apleni addressed the high spend on litigation. Once people arrived in South Africa they were highly likely to be litigants. The only facility for deportation was Lindela. Foreign nationals who were arrested in other provinces were detained in prisons or held in police cell, but this was problematic because they were not supposed to be arrested and detained without trial. The general rule was that any person arrested had the right to be brought before a court as soon as reasonably possible, but not later than 48 hours after the arrest. Foreign nationals who were detained more than 48 hours had sued the DHA. Others were suing the DHA on the ground that they were documented but their papers were lost or that they were not in possession of their documents when arrested. The issue of illegality was problematic and, at the same time, was a large cost to the nation. It was also costly to defend deportation orders – for instance, the DHA spent a lot of money on the closure of the Port Elizabeth Refugee Reception Centre, and eventually lost that case.

Mr Apleni said that the details of provincial managers would be provided so that the Committee would be able to get in touch with them.

Mr Apleni said that the issue of the budget cut would be dealt with in detail when the DHA returned to brief the Committee on other matters of concern, on 08 March 2015.

On the issue of inaccessibility of reserve games, Apleni said that the DHA signed a memorandum of understanding on that matter but the DHA ought to do more to ensure that there was accessibility to the game reserves. The Committee should however bear in mind that power of the DHA was restricted by the tourism sector who claimed that the DHA measures were affecting tourism.

On filling vacancies, Mr Apleni responded that the DHA had Acting provincial managers because the process of recruitment was not yet finalised. People sitting as acting managers were also interviewed for permanent posts but may not have done satisfactorily for the permanent posts. Only one provincial manager was appointed in Kwazulu Natal. Women were being interviewed to comply with the employment equity requirements.

Mr Apleni noted that the DHA published all duplicated ID numbers and called upon the concerned people to report to the DHA so that it could address the issue. However, few people came forward. It was still committed to addressing the problem.

The Chairperson appreciated the responses and noted that the issue of SITA was an underlying problem, that the budget cuts were also problems, that there were cultural practices affecting registration of birth, that the discussions with National Treasury should be ongoing until the DHA was properly capacitated to discharge its duties. The DHA should take time to go and explain it processes to the people and make them aware of the impact of changing their names or inserting a name in an identification document, so that they would be aware of where the difficulties with this were.

The meeting was adjourned.

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