Department of Home Affairs 2nd & 3rd quarter performances; Status of the Guptas

Home Affairs

13 March 2018
Chairperson: Mr B Mashile (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) briefed the Committee on the Second and Third Quarter performances and budgets for 2017/18 financial year. The brief focused on supporting the priorities and outcomes of government, the Department’s outcomes and strategic objectives and progress as well as budget versus actual expenditure as at December 2017.

In Quarter Two, the Department of Home Affairs had a total of 32 targets planned for the Quarter two of the 2017/18 financial year. 22 targets had been achieved representing a 69% achievement rate, and 10 (31%) targets were not achieved. In Quarter Three, the Department of Home Affairs had a total of 33 targets planned for Quarter 3 of the 2017/18 financial year. 22 targets had been achieved representing a 67% achievement rate, and 11 (33%) targets were not achieved.

Misconduct and enforcement remained problematic.  The targets for submitting misconduct cases to a presiding officer for consideration had not been met, nor had targets for law enforcement operations and inspections to ensure compliance with immigration and departmental legislation been met.

Expenditure as at 31 December was R 821 971 000 representing 76.8% of the allocated budget of R1 070 800 000. Spending for Provinces was within the 2% threshold.

Members sought clarity on various issues. They asked about the litigation as it pertained to Firebrand and how much had been spent on litigation, why the DHA had so many vacancies, why was it outsourcing security personnel, and whether offices were opened on Saturdays.

The Committee was in disagreement as to whether the Chairperson should approve a report from the research unit that would mark the commencement of a research project to verify the validity and authenticity of documents on the status of the Guptas submitted by the Department of Home Affairs. Some Members felt that the research proposal was a delaying tactic and that the Committee should immediately establish a commission of inquiry to investigate all Gupta matters related to Home Affairs. No agreement was reached, and the meeting ended abruptly.  The Chairperson said that the discussion on that issue would feature in the upcoming meeting. 

Meeting report

Opening remarks
The Chairperson acknowledged apologies from the Deputy Minister, Ms Fatima Chohan.  He asked the Director-General of Department of Home Affairs to present the performance and budget reports.

Briefing by the Department of Home Affairs on the Second and Third Quarter performances and budgets for 2017/18 financial year
Mr Mkhuseli Apleni, Director-General of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) took the Committee through the presentation. The presentation focused on supporting the priorities and outcomes of government, DHA outcomes and strategic objectives; progress against objectives, major challenges, performance per branch and per programme and finally budget versus actual expenditure as at December 2017. In Quarter 2, the DHA had achieved a total of 32 targets planned for the quarter. 22 targets had been achieved representing a 69% achievement rate, and 10 (31%) targets were not achieved. In Quarter 3, the DHA had achieved a total of 33 targets planned for the quarter. 22 targets had been achieved representing a 67% achievement rate, and 11 (33%) targets were not achieved.

Misconduct and enforcement remained problematic.  The targets for submitting misconduct cases to a presiding officer for consideration had not been met, nor had targets for law enforcement operations and inspections to ensure compliance with immigration and departmental legislation been met.

Mr Apleni noted that the target relating to the development of citizenship and amendment processes into live capture had not been achieved in Quarter 2 or 3. Non-achieved targets included the Draft White Paper to be submitted to Minister for approval, the Request for Qualification (RfQ) to be issued to the market, the Border Management Authority (BMA) Road Map to be approved by Minister, and the feasibility report to National Treasury.

Expenditure as at 31 December was R 821 971 000, representing 76.8% of the allocated budget of R1 070 800 000. Spending for Provinces was within the 2% threshold. With regard to self-financing expenditure, it was reported that funding was only appropriated on 8 January 2018 after the appropriation bill had been signed. The self-financing funds were also captured on the Basic Accounting System. Funds had been shifted from other departments for the upgrading of the Automated Biometric Information System.

Discussion
Mr M Kekana (ANC) asked about the litigation pertaining to Firebrand and how far that far that was. He said that he would like to know how much had been spent on litigation and what the way forward was in that regard. Referring to the vacant posts, he said that he was worried that there were still many posts that remained unfilled. He remarked that one of the priorities of the ruling party was to deal with job creation. The other one was to fight against corruption. He wanted to know about the policy regarding promotion. Did the DHA have such a policy?  He asked why provincial managers were in acting positions. He remarked that a position should not be vacant if it was funded. There was no way a person could act in a position for a year. The DHA should prioritise filling positions. He expressed his concern over the security personnel problem and asked why security was outsourced.  That was a dangerous practice. The question of security consulting or outsourcing should be abolished. He viewed outsourcing or consulting as a way of promoting corruption. The DHA should employ its own security agents.

Ms B Dambuza (ANC), referred to the drafting of the Refugee and Immigration Amendment Bill, asking how far the process was and how long it would take for the Bill to be tabled before the Committee. She noted that the DG had stated that among annual targets was the completion of drafting of a new Immigration and Refugees Bill which had to be presented to the Minister by March 2018. She asked for clarity on whether the Bill had been submitted to the Minister. If so, the Bill should be tabled in Parliament as soon as possible so that the Bill could be engaged with, considered and adopted prior to the recess for the 2019 elections.

She asked whether there were enough funds with regard to counter-corruption and security services. Why was there under-spending with regard to local and provincial governments? The DHA had spent only 43% of its allocated budget in respect of local and provincial governments. What were the challenges that it faced? What was the problem with issuing smart ID cards, especially in Alfred Nzo District?  Referring to inviting learners and government institutions to apply for Smart ID Cards on Saturdays at designated offices, she remarked that those designated offices should be made known so that Members should assist in distributing the information.

Mr A Figlan (DA) welcomed the presentation. He was concerned with mobile units and asked why nothing had been said about them in the presentation. Referring to the Firebrand case, he remarked that the DHA had lost the case on both occasions and he was curious to know how much had been spent on litigation.

Ms H Mkhaliphi (EFF) said that she was also concerned about mobile units. All provincial managers had reported that the trucks were very old. She asked how the DG was planning to address the issue. Should mobile units be not operational, many people would not be catered for. Many people would suffer from that type of crisis. She asked DHA to clarify the statement that “the vacancy rate was maintained at 10% or below.” What did the statement imply? Referring to awareness initiatives on ethics, fraud prevention and counter-corruption, she stated that she was concerned about the fact that no effort was put in by DHA to ensure zero corruption. The DHA was not serious about corruption. On the enhancement of service delivery, she asked what target had been set regarding youth. Finally, she asked what the consequences would be if borders were not were secured and guarded.

Ms D Raphuti (ANC) welcomed the presentation and expressed concerns over security personnel. She was of the view that DHA was not doing enough to achieve its mandate. First of all, there was leakage of exam papers at the time of writing and that would not happen if people were subjected to vetting processes. The DHA was to blame because it formed part of the security cluster. She asked whether all employees were subjected to vetting. She remarked that misconduct cases were very high. What kinds of misconduct had occurred?  Referring to the accommodation budget, she noted that 142.6% had been spent. Who and what was the accommodation for? Could some of the staff in the office of the Minister not make use of houses in the suburbs instead of hotel rooms to reduce costs. She was also concerned with the marriages of convenience whereby South African men were marrying foreign women for them to have access to social grants. That should be investigated. Men should be asked why they had so many children.

The Chairperson commented on Zimbabwean children who were being trafficked into South Africa. He had also heard on SAfm of someone raising the problem of spending a whole day in the queue and having had to go home without being served. He also asked the DG to explain the impact of the court ruling relating to the 48 hours’ incarceration of immigrants. He agreed with Ms Dambuza that the Bills on Refugees and Immigration should be tabled before the Committee as soon as possible. There was a report containing recommendations on the establishment of the DHA services and she asked about the DHA response to that report.

Mr Figlan stressed that he too was concerned about opening hours of the DHA offices and asked whether offices were open on Saturdays to assist the youth to collect their IDs.

Mr Apleni responded to the issues on child trafficking, saying that they were dealt with under the 2014 Immigration Regulations, which required that everyone should carry the birth certificate of his or her children. In the case of the Zimbabwe border, the same thing should happen. Those children gained access to South Africa through ports of entry and then whilst travelling inside South Africa, they were arrested at a roadblock. Police officers sensed that there was something wrong and asked who the parents were. The case of the children had been taken to court and the court had ruled in the favour of the DHA. People from Cape Town were claiming that those kids belonged to them, but when those people were asked to undergo a DNA test, no one had agreed to do so. So, the crucial question was who were those parents who could allow their children to travel unaccompanied? Of concern was the fact that when the DHA wanted to implement the laws to safeguard children, the tourism industry was always against it.

With regard to Bills, Mr Apleni stated that the Bills would not be tabled in 2018 but in March 2019.

Referring to the Committee report, Mr Apleni responded that the DHA had looked at the report. He said that various targets had not been achieved due to a reduction of the budget by R15 million. The DHA had considered all recommendations made by the Committee after its oversight visit to certain municipalities.

On the mobile units, Mr Apleni explained that a truck cost R1 million. There was also the problem of paying staff. The problem was that the DHA could not deliver beyond its capacity and it could not recruit people beyond the funded posts. He noted that the following week he would be briefing the Committee on the Annual Performance Programme (APP). He would then explain more. The DHA could not spend what it did not have. He added that the following year, the budget would be cut by R14 million.

On the court ruling, Mr Apleni stated that the DHA had not lost the case. The Constitutional Court had stated that it was not in the interest of justice to deal with the matter at that stage.  He explained the process of appeals as follows: From the High Court, one went to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA). The SCA would be given an opportunity to hear the matter prior to it going to the Constitutional Court. However, the DHA had gone to the SCA and Constitutional Court at the same time. The Constitutional Court had said that it was in not the interest of justice to hear the matter unless the SCA had been afforded an opportunity to hear the matter. The case was not heard on the basis of its own merit.

On the question of filling posts, he reiterated that there was no way vacancies would be filled to such an extent that there would be zero vacancies because employees were always resigning. The standard for vacancies was that it should not go beyond 10%. The issue of opening offices on Saturday was problematic because National Treasury was not willing to fund it and employees were not willing to work on the weekend without extra time or bonuses. With regard to the policy of promotion, he said that the policy was clear. Once a position was vacant, it was open to be applied for on basis of meeting specific criteria. Employees could not just be promoted on the basis of the experience that they had. In other words, employees were no longer promoted on the basis of experience. He was aware that provincial managers were acting but six positions had since been permanently filled.

On outsourcing the security personnel, Mr Apleni responded that the problem was always funding. If funds were available and guaranteed, he would employee his own security agents. On the security issue, he said that the police were not willing to guard government buildings simply because they did not have the capacity. He added that only IT had consultants. The day prior to the presentation, senior officials of the DHA discussed that issue. The IT issue was important to the modernisation of the DHA. The DHA needed to get IT people but it was difficult to attract them because the Department did not have sufficient money to pay them. The DHA wanted to ask National Treasury to transfer money from one programme to another. The DHA would not be asking for more money. He also felt that the thing of private security could be abolished the following day if he had the budget. However, there was no capacity to do so. The DHA was installing alarms which were connected to the nearest polices. The salient question was what would happen if the police did not respond on time? What damage would be caused to those offices?

On the question of queuing the whole day, Mr Apleni responded that the DHA did not have online appointments except for passports. It applied the principle of first come, first served. Sometimes a high number of people would queue for services. The question of the queueing was an issue that he would look into. On service delivery, he said that in the rural area there should be no distance greater than 35km from one office to another. That principle was difficult to achieve due to financial constraints.  He further remarked that people who did not achieve their targets were not being paid bonuses.

On the question of leaked exams, Mr Apleni stated that the DHA did not deal with exam papers. On the question of vetting, he asked what could be done in cases where people were appointed when vetting was outstanding. To avoid situations such as these, security vetting was finalised prior to appointment, where possible. On the question of marriages of convenience, Mr Apleni responded that the new Bill would address the issue. It would state that if a wrongdoer was caught, that person would be sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment. The law was being changed to legalise the punishment.

Mr Apleni stated that posting a person to work abroad cost the DHA R 1.2 million. That was why they had introduced the online application process. He reminded the Committee that SITA had made a presentation on how the networks of the DHA would be improved and connected to the DHA offices abroad. The way the network connected national and foreign offices was no different from connecting an office based in the Eastern Cape with the Pretoria’s office. All applications would eventually be made possible online so that applications would be easier.

The Chairperson remarked that the DHA should make sure that when the DHA dealt with the Refugees and Immigration Bill, no other Bill should be in the drafting process. They were still struggling with the Bill which had not been finalised and now another Bill was being drafted and would await approval by the Minister. A lot of questions that were asked were relating to the Annual Performance Plan (APP). Members should reserve questions to be asked when the DHA come to present the following week. The DHA should improve on its service delivery to serve the people. The services should speak to the funds that were allocated to the DHA.

Verification of information on the status of the Guptas submitted by the DHA
Ms Mkhaliphi announced that there was breaking news on radio that Rajesh and Atul Gupta were not Indian citizens.

The Chairperson said that the Committee was not considering that issue. Tweeting about the Guptas should remain in the media. The Indian Embassy was expressing its view. The South African population register should determine who was a citizen of South Africa or not. A document had been given to Members that the Chairperson needed to sign so that the research unit could look into the documents on the naturalisation of Gupta family members. The report from the unit would be released in June.

Ms Dambuza said that the process was unfolding in the right way. She had no problem with signing the document and the June timeframe was fine. But she did not agree with the statement that the work of the research unit should not include the site visits due to financial constraints. That was not acceptable. That was Parliament and the Gupta’s documents verification was a special project and the Committee was not asking much more than other Committees were requesting. Donations had been made in the Northern Cape and not in all provinces. In the documents, there were contradictory figures that needed investigation. Those figures related to investments.  The documents talked about investments and donations to 75 schools that were used as justification of exceptional circumstances. There was information that needed to be verified and to be sure that it was included. The Chairperson should sign next week once all that information had been checked.

Mr Figlan agreed and remarked that an investigation was needed, given that he had tried to call some of the schools in vain. Numbers were incorrect or were missing.

The Chairperson said that if a number was missing or not receiving calls, that should not be a problem because the research unit would approach the Department of Basic Education to get correct information. Once all information was obtained, they would ask those schools if they had received a donation.

Ms Mkhaliphi said that when Ms Dambuza had proposed the process to use the research unit to investigate the authenticity of the documents, Members had not agreed with the process. It was not a Committee decision. It was the Chairperson’s decision because there was no consensus among Members to follow that process. The process was intended to delay the consideration of those documents by the Committee. In her view, the Committee should establish an inquiry committee to investigate the matter. The DA and EFF did not support the Dambuza proposal. The Gupta issue could not be dealt with piecemeal. There were issues arising such as the Guptas having six passports and that the Guptas having the right to vote.  Were those issues going to be investigated separately? She said that those issues should be investigated as a whole and in a comprehensive manner. The Chairperson wanted to block an investigation on the matter.

The Chairperson said the Ms Dambuza’s proposal had been supported by the majority of Members. He wanted to sign the document from the research unit so that the process of verifying documents could start. 

Mr Figlan remarked that the Chairperson could not rush to sign the document from the research unit simply because of the concerns of Ms Dambuza.

Ms T Kenye (ANC) said that she shared the same sentiments as her colleagues in that there were contradictions in the documents. There was no need to sign the research unit document when there were grey areas in the documents submitted by the DHA.

Ms Raphuti commented that she thought that it would be wise to sign the document for the verification of documents to commence. She felt that it was time to interrogate the documents.

Ms Dambuza supported the Chairperson’s statement that Members had agreed to the verification process. From the outset, Members had agreed that the Committee should make a request for documents from the DHA. The documents were submitted to the Committee. The documents were there.  Members had to do their work. They should look at the documents and make their comments. In the previous meeting, Members had raised their concerns over the authenticity and validity of the documents. Members had further remarked that they should continue engaging with the DHA or they would not get anywhere. Accordingly, she proposed that the process should be limited to the Committee level in that the documents should be subjected to verification through conducting research on them. The Committee’s research unit would conduct the research.

After having established facts on those documents, the parliamentary legal team would then advise the Committee on how to proceed, including whether the Committee should establish a commission of inquiry. If there were other documents, such as emails, those documents should also be submitted to the Committee so that they should be engaged with. Whether the Guptas would vote or not would depend on the rights they had in South Africa. It was not an issue for the Committee to decide.

Ms Mkhaliphi said that she fully agreed with Ms Dambuza’s approach because both of them wanted the Committee to get to the bottom of the matter. They differed on whether there should be a verification process through a research process, or whether a commission of inquiry should be established immediately. The fundamental question was whether the research unit had the capacity to deal with all the issues.  There should be an inquiry in all issues at once to put the matter to rest. The Committee ought to take a decision to investigate the State Capture in its totality.

The Chairperson asked why Members were torturing themselves. Until that point, Members had agreed to verify the information received from the DHA. They had not agreed on an investigation. The research unit had prepared a report to be signed by him to authorise the verification process. Members should go home with the report, read it and see if the report could be improved.

Mr Kekana remarked that the Committee should take the Gupta issue seriously. He said that every time he saw the Minister talking about the issue, there was something new. And that always caused him to wonder.  He supported the idea that there should be investigation into Gupta matters. Even Mr Frolick, the Chairperson of Committee Chairpersons, had asked the Committee to investigate the emails and not verify them. Since 27 June 2007, the Chairperson had been shielding that thing from being investigated. He had come to develop the feeling that the Chairperson was one of the Gupta’s. It looked like he had a personal interest in the matter. One of the ANC’s priorities was to fight corruption and the Committee should be seen to be fighting corruption, not shielding those who were committing corruption.

The Chairperson said that they were torturing themselves unnecessarily. If Members wanted to talk about Gupta issues they should allocate a day to speaking about all issues relating to them. Members should deal with the issue before them. Those were the issues on the agenda. The decision to verify documents had been taken by the Committee and the decision had not been reversed. The verification process should commence.

Mr Figlan said that, according to Mr Frolick, the Committee should conduct an investigation and the report from the research unit was saying the same thing. Members should come back and deal with the issue next week.

Ms Mkhaliphi remarked that all issues ought to be investigated, including State Capture. The delaying tactics would not help Members. She was supporting the investigation. Ms Mkhaliphi was interrupted leading to an argument with the Chairperson.

The Chairperson said that the discussion was heading nowhere as some Members were not given time to speak due to arrogances. He said the meeting should adjourn. The meeting ended abruptly.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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