The Committee Content Advisor took the Committee through the Budget Vote Report, which summarised the interactions and recommendations made at the meeting held on 2 July with the Department of Home Affairs, the Independent Electoral Commission and the Government Printing Works on their annual performance plans (APPs) and budget for 2019/20.
The targets for the issuing of skills permits had increased significantly, but the country was still experiencing some delays in attracting scarce skills, which had become a national priority. It had been recommended that the APP targets be reduced from 31 t0 26, mainly because of a lack of funding from National Treasury.
Members referred to the discussion concerning government departments having their documents printed by the GPW, which had also considered small businesses benefiting from making use of the GPW, and said this observation should be included in the recommendation. They questioned whether sufficient funding had been allocated to dealing with asylum seekers and refugees. It was also suggested that the significant increase in allocation for outsourcing services should rather be used for employing more personnel so that the Department could perform those services itself. The report was adopted.
Parliament ICT briefed the Committee on the “My Parliament” APP, which was aimed at capturing all the information required for individual Members of Parliament (MPs). The APP included the schedule of the MP who used the APP, as well as relevant personal information, such as a photo of the Member, contact details, and all the information surrounding the specific committees that the Member was involved in. It kept Members up to date with what was going on in Parliament by providing regular news updates. A Member suggested that the APP should allow access to information from all the committees.
The Committee was also briefed on the Legacy Report of the previous Committee. One of the key recommendations that had emerged was that it had confirmed the need to address the issue of not having sufficient cost of employment budgets. This was a pressing issue, because it had consequences on the functionality of the Department as well as the security of the country. South Africa had a very large border to monitor, and many administrative challenges would arise from not having enough staff to manage immigration cases and similar issues.
Consideration and Adoption of DHA Budget Vote Report
Mr Adam Salmon, Committee Content Advisor, took the Committee through the Budget Vote Report. The report summarised the interactions and recommendations made in light of the meeting the Committee held on 2 July with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the Government Printing Works (GPW) on their annual performance plans (APP) and budgets for 2019/20.
Section 1 focused on Home Affairs and looked at the overall priorities, outcomes and targets for the year. There were paths to more efficient visa facilitation and alleviating poverty through job creation and allocations of public grants based on documentation received. This section also included an account of the annual performance plan (APP) of the Department for the 2019/2020 financial year.
The targets around the issuing of skills permits increased significantly, but still experienced some delays in terms of attracting scarce skills, which translated to a national priority. A recommendation was made in relation to the number of APP targets, which were reduced from 31 t0 26, in part because of a lack of funding from National Treasury.
The report provided a summary of the budget analysis of the DHA. This was an analysis of which programmes and sub-programmes had received an increase or decrease in funding, as well an any concerns which may have arisen as a result of this.
Section 2 of the report dealt with the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), aligning their strategic objectives for the year, noting the priorities and limitations of the IEC and three different key focus areas. This section also included a detailed account of the IEC budget, and where increases and decreases occurred.
Section 3 included the same points of discussion as the first 2 sections, but only in relation to the Government Printing Works (GPW).
Section 5 dealt with the observations of the Committee in relation to the three entities discussed earlier in the reports.
Section 6 of the report provided the recommendations made by the Committee, which mirrored the observations mentioned in Section 5. The Committee made the following recommendations:
Department of Home Affairs
- National Treasury should consider increasing funding to the Department of Home Affairs, in line with its increased security mandate.
- There were continued network challenges at the DHA offices, and the long queues at some offices should feed into the debate around changing legislation requiring the use of the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) for information technology (IT) services.
- There should be increased inspection to ensure compliance by businesses with immigration regulations.
- The DHA should ensure that all trusted travellers were registered and
more ports of entry were equipped with the e-Gate system once it was implemented.
- The Department should plan innovative ways to better curb fraudulent marriages.
- The Department should ensure that mobile trucks were modernised so they were able to issue smart ID cards and passports, particularly in the rural areas.
- The DHA should ensure that children of undocumented migrants were provided with documentation accepted at schools.
- More health facilities should be equipped in the medium term to register births within the required 30 days or less -- ideally prior to the child leaving the hospital.
- The Department must ensure increased provision of services through banks, to ease congestion for the application and collection of ID cards and passports.
- The Minister of Home Affairs should ensure gender parity in the senior management of the DHA.
- Rather than the proposed increase in funding to outsourced contractors -- from around R40 million to R120 million -- the Department should consider employing more permanent staff.
Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa
- The IEC should conduct more effective outreach programmes to the youth in communities regarding the importance of voting in elections.
- National Treasury should consider allocating more funding to the harvesting of addresses and ICT refreshment.
- The IEC should increase its efforts towards achieving a “clean audit,” rather than the current “unqualified audit”.
- It should ensure that the issue of double voting and easily removable indelible ink investigated after the 2019 national and provincial elections was prevented prior to the upcoming local government elections in 2021.
- The IEC should have a roll-out of live results and ensure constant communication with political parties and the media at the results operations centre.
Government Printing Works
- The Minister of Home Affairs should ensure that the position of the Chief Executive was filled as a matter of urgency.
- The Minister and the GPW should continuously engage with African governments to print their security documents.
- The Minister should engage with the Leader of Government Business to ensure that all national government departments and state organs print their documents at the GPW. However, consideration should be given to avoiding negatively impacting on small and medium businesses in this regard.
Mr A Roos (DA) referred to the discussion concerning government departments having their documents printed by the GPW, which had also considered small businesses benefiting from making use of the GPW, and said this observation should be included in the recommendation.
Mr J McGluwa (DA) raised a concern as to whether or not these recommendations would be binding. When one looked at the report, along with the Legacy Report, with specific reference to the amount of money allocated to asylum seekers and refugees, one would find that a lack of funding in this area was a point that had been raised many times. In light of this, he recommended that there be more funding allocated to these two areas.
Mr M Hendricks (Al Jama-ah) said that Al Jama-ah had a focus group to see how they could implement some of the suggestions made in the State of the Nation Address (SONA). This group had raised concerns regarding the budget, because the SONA had identified a very important aspect that affected the Department of Home Affairs, which was the capacity of the state. He therefore questioned the Department’s increase in the outsourced service allocation, from R40 million to R120 million.
The Chairperson acknowledged the points raised by Mr Hendricks, but said that this concern would be addressed at the next meeting.
Ms L Tito (EFF) said that the EFF would not be aligning themselves with the report.
Mr Roos proposed that the wording of provision 7.3 of the report be amended to include a consideration to bear in mind the negative impact on small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
The report was adopted, with the DA and the EFF dissenting.
“My Parliament” APP
The Committee was told that the My Parliament APP was available on Android and IOS Systems, and was aimed at capturing all the information required for individual Members of Parliament (MPs). This APP included the schedule of the MP who used the APP, as well as relevant personal information, such as a photo of the Member, contact details, and all the information surrounding the specific Committees that the Member was involved in.
The My Parliament APP kept Members up to date with what was going on in Parliament by providing regular news updates. It also had a data base which kept any relevant documents from the last six months, but ICT was working on a second version of the APP which had a larger archive of documentation.
Mr McGluwa asked Parliament ICT if the APP required him to use his Parliamentary email address, or if it allowed for any email address to be used. He raised the point that in reality, one was allowed to attend any Committee meeting, and therefore suggested that the APP should allow all Members to have access to all Committees and their documents as well.
Mr Roos said the APP looked exciting, but suggested that a filter should be added so that users could easily navigate through questions asked in Committee meetings.
Parliament ICT acknowledged the suggestions raised by the Members, and said that with further development to the APP, the necessary improvements would be made.
Committee Legacy Report
Mr Salmon presented the Legacy Report to the Committee, and highlighted the main issues and recommendations made.
The first two pages included a strategic overview of the report itself. In the last five year programme, the Committee had been very busy with the legislative amendments, and had worked on ten bills over five years. Of the nine oversight trips that the previous Committee had planned, only five had taken place because legislation always took priority over oversight trips. The Committee did, however, undertake two joint oversight trips, mostly dealing with immigration and xenophobia.
The Committee would have to oversee the completion of the advanced facilities of the Government Printing Works in Pretoria, since the aim was to introduce smart ID cards, as well as passport cards with chips in them, and make them available for all South Africans.
Some of the key challenges, included the busy schedule of the Committee in relation to legislation, had ended up inhibiting other work, so there needed to be a balance between oversight and plenary work. Furthermore, committees were entitled to two international study tours, and because this had not happened due to budget cuts, the Committee had been deprived of these opportunities. The busy schedule had also led to a delay in the adoption of minutes and reports of the Committee, so going forward the Committee would make time for this in the agenda.
One of the key recommendations that had emerged was that the Committee had confirmed the need to address the issue of not having sufficient cost of employment budgets. This was a pressing issue, because it had consequences on the functionality of the Department as well as the security of the country. South Africa had a very large border to monitor, and many administrative challenges would arise with not having enough staff to manage immigration cases and similar issues. The Committee would also be getting a new researcher to assist in the increased efforts to monitor the implementation and status of recommendations made by the Committee.
The report included the five-year programme of the previous Committee, which would be the foundation of the strategic plan for the current Committee. There were also important tasks to roll out as sub-priorities that needed to be considered, and SONA priorities which the Committee had to deal with during their term. Page 23 dealt with international engagement and co-operation, which showed that the Committee was focusing not only on Home Affairs, but also on the broader international implications of immigration.
Mr McGluwa referred to page 23 of the report dealing with international engagement, and said that what was lacking was the need for training of members of the Department and the Committee on the elections that take place in other Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, and this had to be considered.
Mr V Pambo (EFF) said that the way in which the Legacy Report had been written did not express the recommendations clearly enough.
Mr Salmon said that the election training formed part of the oversight trips.
The meeting was adjourned