The Committee convened on a virtual platform to discuss its report on its oversight visit to the Beitbridge and Lebombo Ports of Entry. The second item on the agenda entailed a briefing by the Auditor-General of South Africa (the AGSA) on the audit outcomes for the 2019/20 financial year for the Department of Home Affairs (the DHA), the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) and the Government Printing Works (GPW). The third item on the agenda was a briefing by the Department on its 2019/20 Annual Performance Report.
The Committee expressed its displeasure over the Minister’s interview, in which he suggested that the Committee’s criticism of government’s failure to implement the Border Management Authority (Act 2 of 2020) could be fuelled by political agendas, such as the factional wars within the ANC. The Minister responded that no legislation can be implemented without Regulations and just because it is assented into law does not make the Border Management Authority Act immediately operational. The Regulations are still being put together and would have to be presented to unions and the Committee before its implementation. It is not merely a lack of political will to act. The Minister of the DHA apologised if the Committee felt like he was insulting them during his interview.
In the Committee Report on the oversight visit to Beitbridge and Lebombo Ports of Entry, it was observed by the Department did not have adequate timeframes on what needs to be done, that no commitment was shown to the funding and operationalisation of the Border Management Authority (the BMA), and it appears that there is no political will to resolve the issues at the ports of entry. Despite there being a marked decrease in the amount of people crossing the borders, the issues of congestion remained severe. There is a lack of joint planning and coordination amongst the departments and organs of state operating at the ports of entry of South Africa. There is little evidence of co-operation between the South African government and the six neighbouring countries with respect to finding common ground on border management and security. The Committee observed that the Department, which has the custodianship of managing entry and exit of people and trucks along South Africa's borders, shy away from coordinating all stakeholder’s operations at the ports of entry. As a result, there is significant evidence of a lack of leadership and no accountability at the operational level of border management. The Committee adopted its Report on its oversight visit to the Beitbridge and Lebombo ports of entry.
The Auditor-General of South Africa reported that the audit outcomes of the Department remained stagnant from the previous four financial years with an audit outcome of unqualified financial statements with material findings on issues of compliance with legislation and Regulations. There has been no improvement on the IT environment with minimal remedial action taken to address the findings of the previous financial year. Legacy systems, vacancies in critical IT positions, inconsistent application of controls as well as inadequate policies and procedures are some of the key observations noted. The institution recommends immediate intervention in this regard. It has also recommended that the Committee request the Minister of the Department to brief Members on the actions plans in place and the progress made. It further recommended that the Minister should request management to provide feedback on the implementation and progress on these action plans. The audit outcomes of the Department have not improved from the previous financial year and there is a continued struggle for its submission of quality financial statements. The audit outcomes for the Government Printing Works and the Independent Electoral Commission are still outstanding and did not form part of the Auditor-General’s briefing as scheduled.
The Department then reported that it achieved 18 out of its 24 planned targets (75%) for the 2019/20 financial year. Six targets (25%) were not achieved. The target achievement performance of the Department has increased by 2%.
The Committee expressed its disappointment in the failure of the Department to resolve the perennial IT challenges that continue to hamper its ability to deliver quality services. Members highlighted the impact of the lack of improvement of the IT environment and its impact on the war on queues programme. The glaring and perpetual long queues that are evident at service points indicate the far-reaching implications of the impact of the lack of improvement within the IT environment. It is concerning that the long queues are prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic and that it poses a risk of being a source spreading the disease at an alarming rate. However, the Committee welcomed the assurance from the Department of interviewing the shortlisted applicants from the day of this meeting to fill the position of the Deputy Director-General of ICT. The Committee will await a report within a month from the Department on the progress made in filling the critical positions within the department’s IT environment.
Members welcomed the Department’s achievement of 75% of its planned targets during the 2019/20 financial year but called for a detailed plan indicating a clear timeline on achieving the remaining targets. It was concerning to the Committee that the Department is stagnating in its audit opinion given by the Auditor-General as the emphasis continues to be on material findings on its non-compliance with legislation. The R284 million in irregular expenditure relating to the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) project must be investigated and concluded. The Committee remains of the view that adherence to key legislation and policy processes is essential in ensuring prudent spending of state resources.
Members expressed concern over the contingent liability that the Department is facing as a result of litigations, but the Department’s legal staff ensured that a timely response will be effected for all these matters. The Committee welcomed the decrease in fruitless and wasteful expenditure in the 2019/20 financial year. The Committee also expressed its appreciation on the Department’s move to institute investigations against the alleged perpetrators of fruitless and wasteful expenditure with the aim of recovering the wasted financial resources.
Regarding the investigation on how Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and Mary Bushiri absconded from South Africa, the Committee remains committed to getting to the heart of the matter and will engage other Committees within the Justice and Security cluster to get a full briefing from the cluster with the aim of getting reasonable answers on the matter.
The Committee also acknowledged and welcomed the apology by the Minister of the Department regarding comments he made during an interview on TV that was regarded as insulting to MPs.
Regarding the correspondence which the Chairperson has received on the matter of alleged fraudulent Corporate Visas issued to new mining companies, Bokamoso & Phenyo Mining Solutions, the Committee has resolved to request the Department to suspend the permits that were given to the two mining houses. The Committee has further instructed the Department to investigate the issuance of those permits, especially in the context of the allegations of preferential treatment given to these entities and it has given the Department a deadline of the end of March 2021 to submit a comprehensive report on the matter.
The Chairperson opened the virtual meeting and welcomed the delegation from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), and the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA). The delegation from the DHA consisted of Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Nzuza Njabulo, the Deputy Minister, and Mr Tommy Makhode, Director-General. The delegation from the AGSA consisted of Mr Fhumulani Rabonda, Deputy Business Executive at the AGSA.
The Chairperson said the purpose of this meeting was for the Committee to discuss its report on its oversight visit to the Beitbridge and Lebombo ports of entry. The second item on the agenda entailed a briefing by the AGSA on the Audit Outcomes for the 2019/20 financial year for the DHA, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), and the Government Printing Works (GPW). The third item on the agenda was a briefing by the DHA on its 2019/20 Annual Performance Report.
Discussion on the Minister’s television interview
The Chairperson stated that the Committee must first address the interview that the Minister of the DHA had on television with Dr JJ Tabane from eNCA’s talk show ‘Power to Truth’, on 18 January 2021. He asked the Minister to explain the comments he made during the interview, particularly the comment that suggested that Members of Parliament (MPs) do not understand the law-making processes.
Minister Motsoaledi responded that he received the letter correspondence from the Chairperson. He was surprised that the Committee took his comments during the interview as an insult or challenge to the oversight role of the MPs. The DHA fully recognises the oversight role of the Committee as being a part of South African law. In the interview, he had suggested that the Committee’s criticism of the government’s failure to implement the Border Management Authority Act could be fuelled by political agendas, such as the factional wars within the ANC. The Committee had previously accused the government of lacking the political will to implement the legislation as a wilful act of obstruction. It is a profoundly serious accusation that the DHA is obstructing the law enacted by Parliament. He stated that he had had encounters where legislation was implemented differently by the legislature and the executive branches of government, which he did not regard as an insult to the Committee because it speaks to different interpretations of the legislation. Interpretations of legislation are the subject of court cases every day, which was what the DHA was trying to explain to the Committee during previous meetings. No legislation can be implemented without regulations and just because it is assented into law does not make the Border Management Authority Act immediately operational. The regulations are still being put together and would have to be presented to unions and the Committee before its implementation. It is not a lack of political will to act. He apologised if the Committee felt like he was insulting them during his interview.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister for his comments. However, in the implementation of the Border Management Authority Act (as assented to by the President of South Africa) the Committee feels that oversight going further on this issue will relate only to the legislation and the one-stop border posts.
Committee Report on the oversight visit to Beitbridge and Lebombo ports of entry
The first item on the agenda was for the Committee to discuss its Report on its oversight visit to the Beitbridge and Lebombo ports of entry in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
Challenges at the Ports of Entry
The oversight visit was necessitated by the congestion at these ports in January 2021. The Beitbridge and Lebombo ports are the busiest land ports in South Africa, and media reports have shown the illegal crossing of people over these borders. The DHA has been criticised for this congestion, as it has been tasked with the facilitation of the movement of people and goods over South Africa’s borders. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, travellers over the borders are required to produce a certificate showing that they have tested negative for COVID-19 within the last 72 hours before travelling. The lack of social distance, hand sanitisers and wearing of masks puts travellers at the risk of contracting COVID-19. The Committee stated that the congestion at the Ports of Entry have led to a humanitarian crisis.
11 members of the Committee attended the oversight visit. A concern was raised that some migrants had attempted to enter the country without the required or valid documentation, such as the passports and negative COVID-19 certificates. There were also reports that five truck drivers have died due to circumstances while waiting to cross into Zimbabwe, while the DHA reported that only one elderly truck driver has passed away at the border. At these ports of entry, the DHA is primarily responsible for the exit or entry of all individuals and to conduct checks for passports and travel visas.
At both these Ports of Entry, there were challenges of congestion that caused uproar in the country. The DHA reported that the congestion was caused by trucks diverted because of strict COVID-19 regulations in neighbouring countries. The Committee was informed that the high level of congestion was due to the testing of all travellers putting strain on the capacity of the port health; the lower price of testing in South Africa contributing to the increase of people electing to have the tests at the ports of entry; the stringent lockdown measures of Botswana that diverted truck drivers towards our ports of entry; violations of South African regulation and corruption of law enforcement; fear of lockdown in Zimbabwe; falsified COVID-19 certificates and illegal crossings assisted by Zimbabwean soldiers and law enforcement.
At the Beitbridge port of entry, approximately 21 800 trucks were reported, which is an increase of 2 000 trucks from the previous year. It was reported that many travellers arrived without the required COVID-19 certificates and that there 98 people tested by the NHLS tested positive. In addition, 1 123 fraudulent COVID-19 certificates were discovered, and 1 176 arrests were made at these Ports of Entry.
At the Lebombo port of entry, 348 positive cases of COVID-19 were detected, and 2 929 fraudulent COVID-19 certificates were confiscated. The Committee observed that travellers were not adhering to COVID-19 protocols. There was no social distancing, and some people did not wear face masks. The travellers reported that the toilets were dirty and had no sanitisers.
Observations of the Committee
In its report, the Committee observed that the DHA did not have adequate timeframes on what needs to be done, that no commitment was shown to the funding and operationalisation of the Border Management Authority (the BMA), and it appears that there is no political will to resolve the issues at the ports of entry. Despite there being a marked decrease in the amount of people crossing the borders, the problem of congestion remained severe. There is a lack of joint planning and coordination amongst the departments and organs of state operating at the ports of entry of South Africa. There is little evidence of co-operation between the South African government and the six neighbouring countries with respect to finding common ground on border management and security. The Committee also observed that the DHA, which has the custodianship of managing entry and exit of people and trucks along South Africa's borders, shy away from coordinating all stakeholder’s operations at the ports of entry. As a result, there is significant evidence of a lack of leadership and no accountability at the operational level of border management.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee Report is quite straight-forward and provides a roadmap based on which the Committee can conduct its oversight duties.
Ms T Legwase (ANC) agreed with The Chairperson that the Committee Report is a true reflection of the experiences during the oversight visit to the Beitbridge and Lebombo ports of entry. There must be a coordinated approach to avoid unnecessary conflicts relating to the borders of South Africa.
Mr M Tshwaku (EFF) stated that the Committee Report is a good reflection of what MPs saw at the ports of entry. The Members are coming from different parties with different political agendas but, on common interests such as border management MPs, must come together. The oversight duties of the Committee and Parliament are enshrined in the Constitution. It is painful to see members of the executive branch of government making comments that MPs do not know the law. The Committee is not playing politics when it expresses concern about the situation at the country’s borders and the violations of human rights and law that happens at the ports of entry. The ports of entry are a roadblock in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic as they are a super-spreader of the disease because of a lack of adherence to safety and hygiene practices. There is a lack of capacity in port health to combat these problems. The main problem is with the testing for COVID-19 that costs more in our neighbouring countries, which increased the amount of people seeking testing at the ports of entry. The DHA should have coordinated with port health to ensure that testing is done efficiently. He stated that the closure of land ports of entry aided in the severe congestion at the borders and an increase in the spread of COVID-19.
Ms M Modise (ANC) welcomed the Committee’s Report and agreed that the Committee should adopt the report. She agreed with Mr Tshwaku that a coordinated approach is needed to prepare for the reopening of the borders under a lower lockdown level and to avoid the pitfalls and challenges that have already arose. It is unacceptable that the challenges faced at the borders are the same it has faced before.
Mr A Roos (DA) stated that the humanitarian disaster at the South African borders during the recent festive period was a disgrace to South Africa, especially happening so soon after the African Continental Free Trade Agreement was signed. It was tragic and an embarrassment to South Africa. There is a good chance that people lost their lives because the DHA and NATJOINTS failed to plan adequately, resulting in the closure of our borders once again. He expressed disbelief that after many oversight visits by various officials from the South African government the health protocols at the borders were still unchanged and remained severely insufficient. It is important to determine which entity is ultimately responsible and accountable for the problems at the border. Port health is not responsible for border coordination and planning but for execute the duties conferred on it in its limited capacity. It does not appear as if the BMA is in control at all, and it appears as if NATJOINTS is fulfilling its role. He agreed with the recommendation in the Committee Report that an investigation be conducted to determine which entity should be held accountable for the situation at the borders during the festive season in specific details. There is no oversight mechanism over NATJOINTS, and the Committee must have some oversight process over the decision and planning done with regards to the borders. It is unacceptable that South Africa’s borders are controlled by an entity free of oversight. He stated that the amount of foreigners coming into South Africa during the festive season was a quarter of the normal volume South Africa experiences in December. This contradicted the Minister’s statement that the borders are being stampeded by foreigners trying to come into the country while the borders are closed. Either the Minister was misleading the public or was misinformed. Either way, the statement by the Minister was damaging to the social cohesion of the country. He asked for clarification on whether the Minister was simply misled and how he concluded that the borders were stampeded.
It is further troubling that once the proper procedures and protocols were in place, it took only a few days for the backlog at the borders to be cleared. This shows that if there was proper planning from the beginning, the entire situation and humanitarian crisis at our borders could have been avoided. The other troubling fact is that approximately 3 000 positive COVID-19 tests were conducted at the Lebombo border, meaning that one out of every five people tested positive. From the statistics now, it is safe to conclude that over 100 people have died as a result and it is unascertainable whether they contracted COVID-19 at the border. These statements from the Minister must be clarified and if must be publicly retracted if the statements are wrong or if the Minister was misled or misinformed.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) aligned herself with the recommendations of the Committee Report, especially given her concerns regarding the collapse of South Africa’s immigration system highlighted in previous meetings. The government of South Africa must make the funding and operationalisation of the BMA a key priority. One of the recommendations in the Committee Report is that the DHA must implement the One-Stop Border Post at the Beitbridge and Lebombo ports of entry as soon as possible, and that the relevant implementation plan must be forwarded to the Committee as a matter of urgency. She stated that the Committee should include a concrete timeframe for the DHA to send the implementation plan.
Mr D Moela (ANC) appreciated the Committee Report as presented for being a true reflection on what transpired during the oversight visit to these ports of entry. He emphasised that the DHA must take the responsibility of coordinating with other government departments to ensure that facilities and services at the borders run smoothly, and that there is accountability for what has transpired.
Ms A Khanyile (DA) welcomed the Committee Report and endorsed the remarks that it is a true reflection of the oversight visit. The DHA must coordinate the issues at the borders to ensure that enough staff is deployed to deal with testing and to ensure that COVID-19 protocols are adhered to. The situation at the borders is a key indicator that there has not been a lot of progress since the BMA has been established. The Lebombo port of entry gave the Committee a look into what people experience when they are travelling over the borders of South Africa. The lack of social distancing and adherence to other hygiene practices are not enforced at the borders. The long queues and waits are also a significant problem together with the lack of ATMs for travellers to draw money needed to get tested. She asked what the observations and recommendations of the Deputy Minister were after his own oversight visit. Were these recommendations ignored and if so, who must be held accountable?
On planning, she said that if the Committee does not get an indication when the DHA is supposed to send the implementation plan, the issue will persist. We cannot continue to subject our people to the conditions at the borders. The COVID-19 pandemic has been here for over ten months, so it is unacceptable that there are no protocols in place. This shows improper management of the situation. The DHA needs to submit a clear plan on how it will manage the borders and mitigate the challenges experienced at the ports of entry. It is undeniable that the ports are poorly managed and that the challenges signify a humanitarian crisis. A plan is needed from the DHA on how it will implement the BMA, which should have been done by January 2021.
Mr M Chabane (ANC) stated that the DHA needs to coordinate a report to outline its plan to deal with the situation at the borders before it is reopened, possibly in February 2021. A progress report is also needed on what the DHA has improved until date. He suggested bringing the port health before the Committee to provide details on its challenges and realities at the border to be able to evaluate the implementation plan of the DHA. At Lebombo, it was a mess and entailed many violations of basic health protocols such as a lack of social distancing and hand sanitisers.
On the matter of the BMA, the Committee knows that there must still be regulations promulgated and engagement on the contents of it. However, the Committee must find its authority to regulate and scrutinise the implementation plan of the DHA. The DHA must engage with its counterparts in the Southern African Development Community (the SADC) to ensure smooth operation at the ports of entry during peak seasons of migration. He reaffirmed the Committee Report in stating that it is evident that no amount of border security deterrence will prevent illegal immigrants crossing into SA. The most crucial border security and management instrument is to promote political stability, good governance, and economic growth in the SADC region.
The Chairperson stated that it is clear to the DHA what the Committee needs clarification on and the answers that are sought. The recommendations of the Committee Report must be implemented by the DHA. Clear plans with timelines must be submitted to the Committee.
Responses from the DHA
Deputy Minister Njabulo thanked the Committee for the oversight work done at the Beitbridge and Lebombo ports of entry because it aids the DHA in its work and reporting to the Committee. He explained that part of the problem of the congestion is that there is no scanner for trucks at the Lebombo port of entry. There is a need to invest in a scanner, and the DHA is in engagements with the South African Revenue Services (SARS) to secure funding for the necessary equipment. An upgrade of infrastructure is also needed to ease the congestion of people. The One-Stop Border Post comes with an upgrade of infrastructure, which is why this project is of paramount importance.
The matter of a lack of coordination between various government departments must be addressed. At the end of the day in order to resolve the problem, full and singular authority must be given to the BMA. Implementing the BMA is important, and after the legislation has been passed the development of the Regulations is now underway. Another issue is that the communities living along the borders are aiding and abetting foreigners to cross into South Africa illegally. Immigration officials, the military and the South African Police Services (the SAPS) were all employed to aid in border patrol. However, the aid of communities undermines this process. The Traffic Management Corporation, working with the DHA, means that there was a higher inspectorate presence, but communities continue to allow and work with illegal foreign nationals who are crossing the borders by hiding them from officials. This makes it exceedingly difficult to control the situation. The DM called on border communities to stop aiding people in their unlawful entering into the country.
Mr Tommy Makhode, the newly appointed Director-General of the DHA, stated that the DHA is engaging with the Acting Commissioner of the BMA to prepare for the reopening of the borders during a lower lockdown level, pursuant to the President’s announcements scheduled for February 2021. He stated that the DHA will come back to the Committee once it finalises the implementation plan for the BMA.
Minister Motsoaledi thanked MPs for their contributions. He expressed commitment to send the required reports to the Committee, including the implementation plan requested by MPs. In December 2020, when the DHA was anticipating the problems that might be experienced at the borders, there was no Acting Commissioner in office at the BMA. The Secretary of Defence and NATJOINTS called a meeting to avoid the problems that was experienced over the festive season. It is unfortunate that some of the plans decided there have not yet materialised. The DHA accepts that there was a weakness in the capacity of the Port Health and available personnel who took up positions.
Regarding the allegation that five people died at the border, he clarified that the claim was announced by the Road Freight Association, which could not back up the information. The information was not issued by the DHA or the SAPS. The Ministry of the DHA was not misled as it was only informed of the one truck driver who passed away. The DHA is still awaiting the relevant information from the Road Freight Association and until it is received and confirmed, the DHA cannot make the announcement that other truck drivers have passed away.
The Committee adopted its Draft Report on its oversight visit to the Beitbridge and Lebombo ports of entry.
Briefing by the AGSA on the Audit Outcomes of the 2019/20 Annual Reports
Mr Fhumulani Rabonda, Deputy Business Executive, AGSA, presented the briefing to the Committee on the audit outcomes of the 2019/20 Annual Reports of the DHA. He stated that the briefing will not extend to the audit outcomes of the IEC and the GPW. The audit outcomes for the GPW and the IEC are still outstanding and thus could not form part of the briefing. Despite the audit being completed, there are outstanding matters being dealt with between the GPW management and AGSA team. The audit of the IEC has not been finalised due to a prolonged process of dealing with technical matters that need consultation.
Credible financial and performance reporting
The DHA, between the 2015/16 and 2019/20 financial years, has moved from a qualified audit opinion to an unqualified audit opinion. This means that the DHA audit outcomes remained stagnant from the previous four financial years receiving unqualified financial statements with material findings on issues of compliance with legislation and regulations.
Concerning credible financial reporting, the DHA submitted its financial statements within the legislated date. However, by the time it was submitted there were material errors in the financial statements which needed to be corrected. The management of the DHA then corrected the material errors and thus an unqualified audit opinion was issued. The areas of material misstatements in the annual financial statements that were corrected include impairment of receivables, impairment of accrued departmental revenue, and irregular expenditure of the ABIS contract. Regarding credible performance reporting, the performance report was submitted with quality of the initial submission for auditing.
The areas with material non-compliance included procurement and contract management, the quality of financial statements submitted for audit and the prevention of irregular expenditure. The audit outcome for the DHA for the FY18/19 and FY19/20 was made with findings.
Concerning the status of internal control, the AGSA has highlighted four areas of concern: oversight responsibility, action plans, daily and monthly controls as well as reviewing and monitoring of compliance. These were similar findings made in the previous financial year.
Lack of IT improvement
There has been no improvement on the IT environment, with minimal remedial action taken to address the findings of the previous financial year. Legacy systems, vacancies in critical IT positions, inconsistent application of controls as well as inadequate policies and procedures are some of the key observations noted. The AGSA recommends immediate intervention in this regard.
Financial health of the DHA
The financial health of the DHA is an ongoing concern. Firstly, the debtors' impairment provision, as a percentage of accrued departmental revenue, is high and has increased from the prior year for the DHA. This is an indication that the DHA is experiencing challenges in the collection of outstanding amounts due to the state. Secondly, the claims lodged against the DHA are too high. If claims against the DHA as at year end become payable in the next financial year, there will be little left to fund operations and service delivery. Therefore, this may compromise service delivery and result in cash flow problems for the DHA.
The AGSA reported that the fruitless and wasteful expenditure of the DHA has decreased over the last two financial years. The majority of the disclosed fruitless and wasteful expenditure for the current year was caused by no shows for hotel bookings and bookings made for car hire services. However, irregular expenditure has increased over the last two financial years. The majority of the irregular expenditure for the current year is made up of the R 277 million that represents payments made on the ABIS project up to the current financial year and R 7 million where competitive bidding processes were not followed.
Regarding supply chain management, the DHA has an unchanged audit finding of having material findings made. The nature of the findings on supply chain and contract management includes awards made to a close family member or official of the DHA, unfair and uncompetitive procurement processes as well as inadequate contract management. The AGSA has identified the three root causes of these issues. Firstly, there is an inadequate review and monitoring of compliance with the applicable legislation in that management does not adequately ensure that compliance is enforced, and action plans are not effectively addressing repeat findings of the AGSA. Secondly, there is a slow response by the DHA to address internal control deficiencies identified by the AGSA. The management of the DHA does not respond with the required urgency to its messages about addressing these risks. Thirdly, there is a lack of effective reviews of annual financial statements before submission to ensure it is dependable and supported by appropriate information.
Status of records review conducted
During the 2019/20 financial year, the AGSA performed a status of records review engagement with the DHA. In these interactions, matters were raised for the attention of the DHA in the respective disciplines.
Where matters raised for attention were not addressed or where appropriate attention was not given to those areas before year end, it has resulted in findings relating to the financial statements and compliance with laws and regulations. The following are examples of matters that were identified by the status of records review but were not addressed by management: the timeous finalisation of the ABIS project investigation (material adjustments were identified on irregular expenditure resulting from the ABIS project), and the inadequate revenue collection and management processes, which has resulted to amounts being impaired.
Recommendations of the AGSA
The AGSA has recommended that the Committee request the Minister to brief MPs on the actions plans in place and the progress made. It also recommended that the Minister of the DHA should request management to provide feedback on the implementation and progress on these action plans. The audit outcomes of the DHA have not improved from the previous financial year and there is a continued struggle for its submission of quality financial statements.
Briefing by the DHA on the 2019/20 Annual Report
Minister Motsoaledi remarked that the DHA is aware that it is reporting on a period that ended last year in March 2020 before the last democratic election. A lot of things would have happened in between because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which will make the Annual Report inconsistent with what MPs are observing. He reminded the Committee that there is the National Population Register (NPR) that registers only South African citizens, National Immigration Identification System (NIIS) that records immigrants and refugees, and Visa Identification System (VIS) which registers who have permits to be in the country. The aim of NIIS is to abolish all those systems to have one unified system. Fortunately, in December 2021, Cabinet gave the DHA approval to go ahead with the establishment of this system.
On the issue of the ABIS system, the Minister said that it is the key to the revolutionisation of the DHA’s IT infrastructure. The investigation into the ABIS project has been presented to the DHA and will be brought to the Committee in February 2021. Lots of people litigate against the DHA and when people institute litigation, the DHA has observed that when it responds via responding affidavits then the litigants do not proceed to trial. The DHA now forces the matter to trial or demand that it be struck off the roll of the court.
Target achievement performance and expenditure
Mr Makhode presented the briefing on the DHA’s 2019/20 Annual Performance Report. The DHA achieved 18 out of its 24 planned targets (75%) for the 2019/20 financial year. Six targets (25%) were not achieved. The target achievement performance of the DHA has increased by 2% from the previous financial year.
For programme one (Administration), 10 out of 15 targets were achieved (67%) and the DHA spent R2.53 billion on this programme. For programme two (citizen affairs), two out of three targets were achieved (67%), and the DHA spend R5.65 billion on this programme. For programme three (Immigration Affairs), all six targets were achieved (100%), and the DHA spend R1.33 billion on this programme. The DHA spent R 3.59 billion on compensation of employees; R 3.26 billion on goods and services; R2.19 billion on transfers and subsidies; R46.19 million on payments for capital assets as well as R5.04 million on payments for financial assets. The total expenditure of the DHA amounted to R9.52 billion for the 2019/20 financial year.
Actions to improve the AGSA’s audit outcome
The 2019/20 financial years was not a usual year, and the audit process was finished late. The DHA developed an Audit Action Plan aimed at ensuring that the audit outcomes improve, and consequence management measures will be implemented when it is warranted.
Challenges and priorities going forward
The DHA identified six main challenges it is currently experiencing. First, there are unprecedented long queues in its offices and branches. This is mainly caused by high client volumes, unpredictable walk-ins, discontinuation of Saturday working hours, high vacancy rates within the DHA and unstable systems rendering services. Secondly, the non-integration of IT system across the DHA is problematic and causes a running of a dual system (digitally and manually) in the same working environment. Thirdly, critical posts at the management level of the DHA remains vacant. Fourthly, there is a heavy dependency on other organs of state to deliver its services in order for the DHA to run smoothly. Fifthly, the DHA is among the departments that are litigated against the most, and lastly, the DHA’s service model is labour-intensive and particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Going forward, the key priorities of the DHA include the establishment of an effective BMA, the operationalisation of the War on Queues Task Team, the filling of vacant funded critical posts, comprehensive reviews of policies on immigration and citizenship, upgrading the six priority land ports of entry to the One-Stop Border Post system, a continuation on the modernisation programme and the reprioritisation of the resources to fund the DHA’s COVID-19 recovery plan.
Mr Tshwaku raised a matter of a letter he sent to the Minister stating that the incoming company into the mining space is not considered as a locally acceptable company, and the local traditional leaders are unhappy in this regard. The involvement of the DHA must be investigated regarding the issuance of the mining permits involved, and the focus must be on using local skills before outsourcing. It is worrying that the permits are issued without doing due diligence and first seeking the skills locally within the country. There is a serious unrest in the area where these mining companies were employed, which can result in a loss of life.
Ms Legwase welcomed the briefings made to the Committee by the DHA and the AGSA. The glaring and perpetual long queues that are evident at service points indicate the far-reaching implications of the impact of the lack of improvement within the IT environment. It is concerning that the long queues are prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic and that it poses a risk of being a source spreading the disease at an alarming rate. It is insufficient for the DHA to merely state that the problem with the long queues is caused by a higher client volume. How far have negotiations gone in reopening the DHA on Saturdays?
The DHA indicated that two new facilities would be built to help with the backlogs. Has this been realised and what has the outcomes been?
In the 2018/29 financial year, the AGSA raised the area of revenue management as an area of concern for the DHA. This shows an inability of the DHA to collect debts owed timeously and the serious concern of fruitless and wasteful expenditure within the DHA. How has this situation changed in the 2019/20 financial year? Why do areas for concern previously raised by the AGSA continue to remain a problem for the DHA to solve and address?
Ms van der Merwe raised the issue of the possibility that fraudulent visas have been granted to foreign nationals, as outlined by Mr Tshwaku. Under no circumstances should there be a situation where South Africans and domestic companies be set aside when there are job opportunities. South Africans should always be put first, especially given the high rate of unemployment that continues to increase. It is economic treason and sabotage, and the Director-General of the DHA must take this matter extremely seriously.
She said that the Committee welcomed the decrease in fruitless and wasteful expenditure during the 2019/20 financial year. It is also commendable that the DHA is employing more women than men. However, the employment of people with disabilities remains a cause for concern. Regarding the 500 managers who were trained in professionalism and critical skills, the DHA reported that this target was overachieved. However, the reality is that a year later there has not been a more efficient DHA as a result. There needs to be real and tangible change based off the lived experiences of the people of South Africa. It does not seem as if the training achieved much to improve the service delivery of the DHA. The queues are not getting better. What has the War on Queues campaign achieved so far and what are the set priorities for the Task Team?
Going forward, the Committee should be furnished with a monthly report showing the progress made on the DHA’s network challenges to ensure that progress is actually being made. In terms of the DHA’s footprint, there has not been much progress in rolling it out to branches across the country. How many more bank branches are now delivering critical services on behalf of the DHA? Were more banks brought online to help reduce the queues at the DHA? She alerted the DHA that its call centre number is not working, and when it is dialled the number says that the line is congested.
Regarding corruption within the DHA, there are only 44 disciplinary hearings within the DHA. It does not seem like there is much progress on holding corrupt officials accountable. How many corrupt officials were identified and charged for the financial year under review? She requested more clarification on the R 4.3 million spent on telephonic interpretation services. On what basis were the cash bonuses given to the top management officials of the DHA, given that 25% of targets were not met?
Programme three (Immigration Affairs) continues to have its challenges. The Annual Report states that 222 law enforcement inspections and operations were conducted to ensure compliance with immigration and departmental legislation. What did this translate to in terms of the amount of illegal migrants that were detected? Did the DHA and the Department of Labour make any headway to find companies and employers of illegal foreign nationals? What is the status on the outstanding fines owed to the DHA by airlines? Has the DHA improved on the tracking of migrants that have been ordered to leave the country? What has the DHA done in assessing the refugee backlog? What is the current staff complement at the Refugee Appeals Board and the Standing Committee on Refugee Affairs? It is interesting that during the oversight visit there were only four employees reviewing all of these cases, resulting in long delays. The immigration system is collapsing in this regard.
Mr Moela appreciated that the DHA indicated the reasons and the way forward where it did not achieve its targets. While the DHA is commended on its 100% spending of its allocated budget, the Department needs to provide the Committee with a way to determine whether the services rendered to the people of South Africa is of good quality and worth the expenditure. In the audit outcomes, there are an emphasis on the extent of the irregular expenditure. What is the DHA doing to decrease the irregular expenditure?
Ms M Molekwa (ANC) stated that the AGSA reported that the DHA’s audit outcome remains stagnant and that the action plans do not adequately address the findings made. It is concerning that the DHA is stagnating in its audit opinion given by the AGSA as the emphasis continues to be on material findings on its non-compliance with legislation. The DHA must revise its action plans in this regard.
Mr Roos first expressed his sincere condolences to all officials from the DHA who have lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He stated that it is concerning that 120 permits were issued on a public holiday when services were closed to the mining companies on the issue that was raised by Mr Tshwaku. The bottomline is that people are suffering, and there is a lack of urgency in the DHA’s Annual Report for implementing measures to address the DHA’s deficiencies and to implement consequence management. The repeated failures of the DHA in its audit outcomes cannot be acceptable. It is apparent from the DHA’s Annual Report that the DHA is aware of the problems in the system, but more efficient solutions are needed urgently. Why is there not an incremental roll-out of the DHA’s improved network capacities? Where are the queue marshalls that must regulate the queues outside of the DHA’s offices to ensure that COVID-19 protocols are followed? The Committee needs to call a specific meeting to address the long queues outside of the DHA’s branches.
He expressed his disappointment in the failure of the Department of Home Affairs to resolve the perennial IT challenges that continue to hamper its ability to deliver quality services. It highlights the impact of the lack of improvement of the IT environment and its impact on the War on Queues programme. There is also a serious issue in the supply chain management of the DHA. What are the consequences of the DHA inadequately collecting its revenue? How did it happen that there were material misstatements in the DHA’s financial statements again, after the Committee was reassured that the relevant training would be conducted? The contingent liability that the DHA is facing as a result of litigations also remains concerning.
Mr Tshwaku asked for an appraisal from the DHA on what the root causes are for the AGSA’s findings that there is no adequate oversight within the DHA. What is the DHA doing to improve its action plans and what will it do differently to ensure that the findings are not repeated in the next financial year? The IT and network areas of the DHA must be stabilised because the budget has been allocated for it and it is unacceptable that systems are still offline. This is a matter of urgency.
Ms Modise welcomed the DHA’s achievement of 75% of its planned targets during the 2019/20 financial year but has called for a detailed plan indicating a clear timeline on achieving the remaining targets. These targets need to speak towards tangible results and improved service delivery on the ground where people are receiving basic services. The DHA must empower South African citizens. How far is the DHA repositioning itself on its mission to be a modern and secure department in light of the COVID-19 pandemic? How many more bank branches are now delivering critical services on behalf of the DHA? Were more banks brought online to help reduce the queues at the DHA? How far has the DHA gone in ensuring the streamlining of this process?
Ms Khanyile welcomed Mr Makhode as the newly appointed Director-General of the DHA. She commended the DHA for decreasing the extent of its fruitless and wasteful expenditure and for achieving a majority of its set targets. The DHA’s plan was to install all major mobile networks on the mobile units. However, this was changed due to the limited coverage of cellphone towers. Instead, the DHA opted for the installation of satellites on mobile units, which have been successfully tested for implementation. There have been reports that the mobile units have been sent out to branches to help with backlogs. How were the mobile units sent out if the Minister of the DHA made the announcement that it must still be tested and is thus not ready? The Committee has previously requested that a list of the mobile units, and where it will be deployed, be provided. This request has still not been fulfilled. Is the DHA ever going to consider the implementation of an appointment system? The DHA does not try to resolve issues before going to court, which contributes to the high levels of litigation at the DHA. The lack of adherence to COVID-19 and hygiene protocols at the DHA branches remains a serious concern, and that is entirely unacceptable.
Mr Chabane commended the DHA’s progress in achieving its set targets and the decrease in fruitless and wasteful expenditure. How will the DHA mitigate the targets that were not achieved? What will the DHA do to ensure that it collects the revenue outstanding from its debtors? The long queues outside of the offices of the DHA are a key indicator on the performance of the DHA. The DHA must engage in a practical oversight of its office to get the issues from the community and what the reality on the ground is.
He expressed the Committee’s appreciation on the DHA’s move to institute investigations against the alleged perpetrators of fruitless and wasteful expenditure with the aim of recovering the wasted financial resources.
Responses from the DHA
Mr Rabonda responded that only after the new non-reduced audit outcome will the DHA be able to comment on whether there has been improvement in its revenue collection and management. On the fines owed by airlines, he indicated that the DHA has not been able to put measures in place to improve the collection of fines due to it. In the DHA’s audit process, it used technology, couriered fiscal documents, and conducted audits via online platforms. In the new financial year, the DHA is finalising the scope of the audit that will be conducted.
Mr Makhode stated that the time left for the meeting does not allow the answering of all the questions by the Members. He thanked the Committee for the questions asked and the suggestions made to improve the operations of the DHA. He indicated that there are a number of measures that the DHA is implementing to ensure that the long queues are reduced, including opening currently closed branches of the DHA. The DHA will send through a report within a month from the DHA on the progress made in addressing the long queues, and regarding the filling the critical positions within the Department’s IT environment.
Mr Thulani Mavuso, Deputy Director-General: Institutional Planning and Support and the Acting Director-General for ICT, DHA, stated that the mobile units present a problem in rural areas where cell reception is scarce. Testing is underway to expand the connectivity to the mobile units. The testing of the mobile units were expanded to various areas to avoid future issues when it is deployed.
Regarding the call centre line, he said that the DHA is aware of the congestion problem on the line. The call centre capacity of the DHA is currently reduced to 50% in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The remaining questions will be answered in writing.
Mr Jackson McKay, DDG: Immigration Services, DHA, requested that the DHA be allowed to answer the remaining questions in writing and send it to the Committee, as the time does not allow for substantive discussion and answers to the questions raised by the MPs.
Closing Remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson stated that it is unacceptable that the IT environment has not improved over the past few financial years and is worrying in the context of a department with a vision to be totally automated in delivering services. It is also unacceptable that it has taken this long to fill the position of the Deputy Director-General of ICT, which the Committee considers critical in resolving technological challenges at the DHA. He stated that the Committee remains of the view that adherence to key legislation and policy processes is essential in ensuring prudent spending of state resources. The Committee will await a report within a month from the DHA on the progress made in filling the critical positions within the department’s IT environment.
Regarding the correspondence which Chairperson Bongo has received on the matter of alleged fraudulent Corporate Visas issued to new mining companies, Bokamoso & Phenyo Mining Solutions, the Committee has resolved to request the Department to suspend the permits that were given to the two mining houses. The Committee has further instructed the DHA to investigate the issuance of those permits, especially in the context of the allegations of preferential treatment given to these entities and it has given the DHA a deadline of the end of March 2021 to submit a comprehensive report on the matter.
Concerning the investigation on how Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and Mary Bushiri absconded from South Africa, the Committee remains committed to getting to the heart of the matter and will engage other Committees within the Justice and Security cluster to get a full briefing from the cluster with the aim of getting reasonable answers on the matter.
The Committee also noted and welcomed the apology by the Minister regarding comments he made during an interview on TV, which were regarded as insulting to MPs.
The Chairperson thanked the Members as well as the delegates for attending the meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Media Statement: Failure to Resolve ICT Challenges at Home Affairs Contributes to Long Queues
- Home Affairs Committee Finds Congestion Remains a Challenge in Lebombo
- One-Stop Border Post Touted as Solution to Challenges at Beit Bridge
- AGSA: Home Affairs PFMA 2019-20
- DHA Annual Report 2019 - 2020
- DHA 2019 - 2020 Annual Performance Report presentation
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.