The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) met with the Select Committee of Social Services to present its last annual performance plan for the Fifth Parliament, and its Budget Vote 5.
The Minister of Home Affairs reported on the challenges the DHA had faced and what its achievements and strengths were. It had focused on improving its efficiency and the capability of its front office personnel, as well as fighting corruption within the Department. It sought to establish an effective border management system, and there was an extensive International Immigration White Paper which had a futuristic outlook, and would hopefully reduce the administration burden.
There would be acceleration of the modernisation programme, with the introduction of live capture and the introduction of a new and integrated National Identity System (NIS). The Automated Biometric System had been launched, with modern and advanced functionalities which broadened the information that was used to identify persons, and was expected to add much value in future. The 62 commercial land ports of entry would be upgraded to allow for better management of the in-and-out flow of persons, especially with citizens of South Africa’s neighbouring countries, and for the integration of economies.
Issues raised by Members included the impact of the 10.7% budget cut on the Department’s performance, the continued congestion in the DHA’s front offices, how its modernisation programme would prevent fraud and corruption within the DHA, why the DHA did not have a programme for social cohesion despite the challenges of xenophobia, and whether there would be any additional financial resources to establish the Border Management Authority (BMA).
Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson referred to the ethic of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), stating that it had been a pleasure to work with the DHA under the leadership of Minister Malusi Gigaba. It had set goals for itself which it had done well to achieve, with an expected 89% achievement of its targets by the end of the 2017/18 year. Initially there had been huge under-expenditure, but there had been an improvement. Regarding the challenge of long queues found at the DHA offices around the country, although it had done much to improve the efficiency of the established offices, the queues of people in need of the DHA’s services remained long, and this could not be resolved without the creation of new offices in rural areas and townships.
She asked about the progress with the building of refugee offices in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, as those were due to be built by May 2018. Were there any progress updates with regard to the major renovations that were needed at the ports of entry, allowing that these would be slow to be done because of poor alignment between the DHA and the Department of Public Works (DPW)? She added that the Select Committee had done its best to prioritise the agenda of the Border Management Authority (BMA) Bill within its departments and entities. She also wanted an explanation for the high vacancy rate in the Department.
Briefing by Department Home Affairs
Minister Gigaba thanked the Chairperson for the opportunity to address the Select Committee on the DHA’s annual performance plan (APP), which formed the basis of the programme of action for the Department. The Chairperson had mentioned many of the points which the Department intended to brief the Members on. These points had emanated from the government’s Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), and with the Department’s five priorities outlined at the beginning of the fifth administration, all of this was in alignment with the National Development Programme (NDP).
Difficult challenges had arisen in the implementation of the goals and plans, but the DHA had adjusted to solve and overcome them. At the start of this fifth administration, these were the five priorities set to reach during this term:
- Continuing improvement of the DHA’s front offices through the embedding of the Moetapele leadership initiative, which sought to create leaders for the front offices -- managers who would assist their clients. It was imperative that qualitative service was given to the clients, which was much more important than having beautiful offices.
- Complete overhaul of the old international immigration policy framework. By 2014, there had been a decision to focus on the management of asylum seekers, critical skills visas, and undocumented migrants. There was now an extensive International Immigration White Paper which had a futuristic outlook, and would hopefully reduce the administration burden.
- Finalisation of Border Management Authority Bill. He was disappointed with the progress, but this remained a vital goal. The intention of the Bill was not to prevent the immigration, particularly of Africans, into South Africa, but to better facilitate the population movements so as not to compromise South Africa.
- Acceleration of the modernisation programme. At the core of this were the introduction of live capture and the introduction of a new and integrated National Identity System (NIS). Last week, the Automated Biometric System was launched, which would introduce new modern and advanced functionalities. It broadened the information that was used to identify persons and was expected to add much value in future.
- Upgrading of the 62 commercial land ports of entry. This would allow for better management of the in-and-out flow of persons, especially with citizens of South Africa’s neighbouring countries, and for integration of economies.
Minister Gigaba said that the DHA aimed to facilitate the identification of South Africans through civil registration, as it was a part of the ‘ID for Africa’ movement. The DHA had made enormous progress; ten million citizens had Smart ID cards, 202 000 of which had been obtained through the commissioned banks.
The challenge that the DHA faced had several causes:
- A grossly inadequate amount of front offices to cater to the growing population;
- The capacity of these offices had been negatively impacted by understaffing and their un-strategic placement;
- Several offices had management issues; and
- Unreliable network connections caused long offline periods.
All of those challenges had become the basis of interventions towards improvement throughout different sectors of the service. A reliable and biometric-integrated database would change how people were managed.
Minister Gigaba said it was important for him to indicate that the DHA had done a lot of work. He hoped that by the end of the financial year, it would have come a long way in its progress to improving its services and that it would achieve another unqualified audit. There had been a positive improvement in financial management, and at the management level there was stable leadership. He hoped that the DHA would continue to have unqualified audits and that clean audits would become a part of the DHA’s culture. The Department had done well to fight corruption. Last year there had been 60 reported cases, of which only 33 involved officials of DHA. Ideally there would be zero, but 33 out of 10 000 officials was an enormous achievement.
The DHA would continue to support the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and Government Printing Works (GPW). The IEC was preparing for elections at this time and there would be no transfers to the GPW, as it was self-sustainable. However, the DPA would be making a R1 billion investment into infrastructure expansion over the next three years to ensure its security and integrity.
In conjunction with the Department of Tourism, there would be innovative interventions on visas, which would include:
- Electronic visas;
- Recognising valid visas issued from countries with more stringent visa requirements;
- Simplifying the visa process for Chinese and Indian nationals to increase tourism;
- 14 of the 15 Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries would receive visa exemptions, as Madagascar and Angola had been added to this list.
He said that there had been a lot of work done, but there was still more to do.
The Chairperson commented on how few women were in the delegation at the meeting.
DHA’s Medium Term Strategic Framework (2014-19)
Mr Mkuseli Apleni, Director-General (DG): DHA, took over the presentation and confirmed all the Minister had said.
The Director-General reiterated that this would be the last year of the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF)2014-2019. His presentation focused on the following areas:
- The MTSF priorities and DHA commitments in support of the MTSF;
- Outcome 3: All people in SA were and feel safe;
- Outcome 4: Decent employment through inclusive economic growth;
- Outcome 12: An efficient, effective and development-riented public service;
- Mandate paper - 2018 budget priorities;
- DHA - critical challenges and strategic responses;
- Departmental performance: historical and projection for 2017/18;
- Comparative analysis of audit outcomes for the last three financial years;
- Profile of the DHA;
- Overview of Targets (2017/18 vs 2018/19) in respect of immigration services, the BMA, civic services, information services, institutional planning and support, human resource management and development, counter-corruption and security services, and communication services;
- MTEF allocations;
- Department programmes -- Administration, Civic Services and Immigration Services;
- 2018/19-2019/20 compensation of employees ceilings;
- Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act (CARA) funding;
- Integrated Justice System (IJS) and Criminal Justice System (CJS) funding for 2018/19.
Ms L Zwane (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) asked if the Department would still be able to achieve its targets with a budget cut of 10.7%, and sought clarification on whether the mobile units would be connected to Dimension Data. She proposed that Post Office branches be used for Smart ID cards, in addition to the commissioned banks. She asked when the three DG vacancies would be filled. Would the BMA Bill be passed before rising of the fifth Parliament? Lastly, she commented that it was a serious issue that there were so many areas in which congestion affected front office efficiency.
Ms T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (DA, Western Cape) asked how the DHA would ensure refugees would not vote in the upcoming elections. Would the infrastructure planned to be built in Limpopo specifically be completed before the end of the fifth Parliament? She also wanted to know when the DG vacancies would be filled. She asked for progress and feedback on the corruption cases
Mr C Hattingh (DA, North West) asked how the DHA would reach its targets despite the obstacles which had been stressed in the meeting.
Mr M Khawula (IFP, KwaZulu-Natal) asked how the modernisation programme of the Department would prevent fraud and corruption, as well as protect the integrity of Home Affairs. He asked why the DHA did not have a programme for social cohesion despite the challenges of xenophobia. He also asked if there would be any additional financial resources to establish the BMA.
Mr D Stock (ANC, Northern Cape) said that the passing of the BMA bill needed to be completed before the end of the fifth Parliament.
The Chairperson said that 5 June had been previously reserved for the finalisation of the BMA. She expressed appreciation to the Department for its progress during the term. She gave her support to the various initiatives of the DHA. She asked if long queues could be eased by reopening offices on Saturdays, and if the Lindela Centre in Limpopo would remain.
Minister Gigaba responded that post offices could be a viable possibility, as it would mean that government offices would be optimised and fewer offices would need to be built. A further two banks had also requested to become commissioned banks. However, the key issue was where the staffing for these offices would come from. There was enormous pressure placed on staff as the volume increased. Despite this, productivity of officials behind counters had increased three-fold over the past years. The DHA aimed to reopen on Saturdays in the near future. Another difficulty with the establishment of offices at commissioned banks and other entities was the issue of service charges. It would be early to implement them, and it would need to be ensured that it was the government and not the entities who gained the profit from them.
Another way that the Department hoped to ease the queues was to introduce a live notification system over the radio, informing citizens which offices were full or not at that moment. This was just one of the many innovative interventions that could be introduced. Automation of the application of services -- allowing for citizens to apply for documents online -- was yet another way the DHA hoped efficiency would be improved.
Minister Gigaba said that the anti-corruption programme was going well and that strong leadership was imperative. Though there were 33 relevant cases of corruption, only three had been finalised so far, as court proceedings happened very slowly.
Deputy Minister Fatima Choman responded on the corruption cases. She said that the Port Elizabeth asylum centre had had to be completely shut down, as it had been found that the entire office staff body was in a coalition. The same had had to be done with the Cape Town asylum centre because of rampant corruption. It had been reasoned by the DHA that asylum centres should be moved to the country’s borders. Limpopo had been chosen to be where the main asylum centre would be placed, and after people had passed through there, they would then have access to the asylum centres and their services around the country.
The Deputy Minister said that Members should not be concerned about whether non-South Africans would be voting, as this was not their right. The focus should be on what these citizens did have the right to do, which was to work and receive an education. The DHA sought to avoid a lawless society, and although asylum centres did not resolve the pressures caused by migration, proper and good border management would.
The meeting was adjourned.
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