The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) virtual briefing on its 2021/22 Annual Performance Plan and budget emphasised its underfunding and the challenges that COVID-19 has brought. The Committee was taken through the targets that the Department wants to achieve such as birth registrations, passports and smart identity cards. DHA spoke about the critical challenges it faces such as lack of funding, inadequate staff, solely relying on the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) for IT services and the lack of legislation for refugee camps.
The DHA baseline will be reduced by R3.2 billion over the MTEF period. This includes a R2.4 billion cut in the compensation of employees. This will have a detrimental impact on critical areas. DHA’s own revenue collection fell sharply in 2020/21 and it reduced its revenue projections by 50% to R621 million. The importance of that is that its self-financing expenditure is limited to the revenue collected. The compensation of employees (COE) ceiling has also been reduced over the MTEF resulting in DHA not able to fill vacancies.
Members complimented the work done by DHA under the COVID-19 regulations. They raised concerns about unrealistic targets, the corruption within DHA, insufficient migrant inspections to ensure compliance with immigration legislation, the lack of efficiency and service delivery at Home Affairs offices and the increased compensation of employees over the years despite the reduction in productivity.
Election of Acting Chairperson
The Committee Secretary stated that as the Chairperson, Adv B Bongo (ANC), could not be present in the meeting, Members should vote for an Acting Chairperson to chair the meeting. This is required by Rule 159 of the National Assembly which provides that if a Chairperson of a Committee is absent or is unable to perform the functions of a Chairperson, the Committee must elect another of its own Members as Acting Chairperson. He then called for nominations from the Members and stated that if two Members were nominated, then the Member with the most votes would be declared Acting Chairperson.
Ms M Modise (ANC) nominated Mr M Chabane (ANC), seconded by Mr B Pillay (ANC). As there were no other nominations, Mr M Chabane was elected Acting Chairperson.
The Acting Chairperson thanked everyone and welcomed the Minister of Home Affairs, department officials and the media. The Committee would receive the briefing on the Annual Performance Plan (APP) and will be given an extensive opportunity to interact with the report afterwards. He noted that the Committee had received a letter from the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (NEHAWU) and the Public Servants Association of South Africa (PSA) from Government Printing Works which will be discussed in the next meeting. It was established that all Members were comfortable with the agenda.
Opening remarks by Minister
Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Home Affairs, asked Director-General Tommy Makhode to introduce the DHA officials present who were Deputy Director-General (DDG) Nkidi Mohoboko, CFO Gordon Hollamby, DDG Thulani Mavuso, Acting DDG Thomas Sigama and DDG Vukani Nxasana. The Minister said the presentation would be conducted by the DG and the emphasis would be on DHA underfunding which is not only due to COVID-19 but also due to the economy melting down. This is a challenge that has been battled for ages. He anticipated Members would raise the challenge of systems being offline at Home Affairs offices. DHA had been holding interviews in search of an appropriate candidate for the vacant Chief Information Officer (CIO) position eight weeks ago and it is currently waiting for the Department of Public Service and Administration to submit the recommendation to Cabinet to make the appointment. The last point he raised was DHA had decided to start with a green paper to allow for a national dialogue on marriage policy as this has far reaching implications.
Department of Home Affairs 2021/22 Annual Performance Plan
Mr Tommy Makhode, DHA Director-General, stated that the strategic planning process took place not only against a bleak economic outlook but also during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic which has negatively affected DHA planning and operations. This led to the scaling down on immigration and the reduction of services and staff capacity in accordance with COVID-19 regulations. Death registration had not been included in the APP. DHA registered 30 132 deaths in December 2019 which increased substantially to 55 676 in December 2020. In January 2021, 78 244 deaths were registered compared to 26 065 deaths in January 2020. DHA was able to conduct all these registrations because the offices were open daily until late to ensure that this service was still provided to bereaved families. the lessons DHA learned were that it had to review its service delivery and operating model so that it can adapt to the new normal. This would require it to communicate with its various stakeholders and to continue to provide oversight including the management of staff and its resources.
He highlighted the key priorities and developments within government and DHA before outlining the APP targets. These included DHA wants to ensure that it registers 700 000 births within 30 calendar days; issues 1.6 million smart identity cards to citizens; 90% of machine-readable adult passports on the new live capture system are processed within 13 working days; and that the marriage policy is submitted to Cabinet for approval. One of the targets for Immigration Services (IMS) is to conduct 220 law enforcement operations or inspections to ensure compliance with immigration legislation. Another target is to ensure the Border Management Authority (BMA) is incrementally established and for its rollout to be at eleven points of entry. The targets were further broken down to quarterly ones subject to COVID-19 regulations and lockdown level.
Mr Gordon Hollamby, DHA CFO, said that DHA is historically underfunded. Baseline cuts were implemented in the 2020/21 worth R562 million during the Special Adjustment Budget and R301 million cut for SAA, plus funds also had to be reprioritised for COVID-19. DHA’s own revenue collection fell sharply in 2020/21 and it reduced its revenue projections by 50% to R621 million. The importance of that collection is that DHA self-financing expenditure is limited to the revenue collected. The compensation of employees (COE) ceiling has also been reduced over the MTEF and DHA is not in a position to fill vacancies. Those posts are unfunded to ensure DHA remains within its COE ceiling. In conclusion, the budget cuts make it impossible for DHA to stay within budget and the COE ceiling. Most importantly, the achievement of its targets is at a serious risk.
Mr Makhode asked that the Committee support DHA in meeting the APP targets.
The Acting Chairperson thanked the Minister and his team for the detailed report and invited Members to interact with the presentation.
Ms T Legwase (ANC) asked if there would not be a need for DHA to revisit the targets considering the disruptions COVID-19 poses and taking into account that the local government elections are in October. DHA should brief the Committee on how it plans to ensure that individuals collect their identity documents and how it has resolved the disputes on the issuing of identity documents. She asked DHA to explain how it will fund personnel recruitment required for the Border Management Authority considering Cabinet’s decision to reduce COE by an average of 0.6% over the MTEF from R3.6bn in 2021 and R3.5bn in 2022/23.
Ms L Tito (EFF) said she had no questions.
Mr M Tshwaku (EFF) asked who actually sets the APP targets. For example, DHA said that it will register 700 000 births within 30 days and issue 1.6 million identity cards to citizens. His question was what tool it used to measure this. He was concerned that DHA is setting targets that are too large to achieve and that if it focuses only on registering 700 000 births or issuing 1.6 million identity cards, what will happen to the rest of the population? Another concern was that the APP does not consider the level of much needed efficiency and service delivery in the Home Affairs offices. MPs have sent queries but no responses have been received. No one is monitoring efficiency, especially in the rural areas because the IT system is always down, or the offices are closed. There is nothing in the APP that deals with these challenges. People in the rural areas travel long distances only to be told that the system is down. The APP should have included a solution to such challenges. It should also have set aside a budget and resources for refugee camps in Cape Town so that it does not seem as if we have a Department that is suffering from self-hate.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) congratulated DHA for including the Gender-Based Violence (GBV) target. She echoed Mr Tshwaku about efficiency and the offices’ failure to reply to emails. She asked the GBV awareness campaign entails that DHA plans to do across the country and if it will be hosting this jointly with other departments considering its massive budget cuts.
On migration, Ms van der Merwe pointed out that some sectors are employing foreign nationals only and most of these employees are undocumented. How is it that DHA will conduct only 220 inspections to ensure compliance with immigration legislation when there are about 15 million illegal immigrants in the country? This places the safety and security of our nation at risk. What else is DHA planning to do to ensure that we enforce immigration legislation? The APP stated that the budget cuts will affect deportation – are we to assume that immigration legislation will even be implemented if DHA will not be able to afford deportation? She referred to a recent radio interview with the Minister who said he had written to the Ministers of Trade and Industry and Small Business Development to establish if the people running spaza shops are here legally and if they had any feedback on this.
Ms van der Merwe asked when can the Committee see more banks offering DHA services as this is a wonderful initiative that will alleviate the pressure on long queues. Finally, as much as there must be more focus on service delivery, stabilising the system, alleviating long queues and ensuring efficiency, there must also be more focus on corruption.
Mr K Pillay (ANC) welcomed the Minister's remarks about its system being offline. The biggest concern of the Committee is that citizens go to the Home Affairs to apply for identity documents and find that the system is offline. This is a serious inconvenience as most people do not have the transport fare to keep going back to there. It is important for the Committee to have a discussion on this at its next meeting and perhaps DHA will provide some feedback.
Mr Pillay stated that the ANC has reaffirmed its position on building an ethical, capable and developmental state that is free from corruption. He asked if DHA can expand on the consequence management initiatives that are being taken or will be taken against corrupt employees. He referred to slide 18 and asked how far DHA has come in clearing the birth registrations backlog of last year caused by the lockdown. One of DHA priorities was to expand its partnership with banks to increase its footprint. How far has it gone in realising this target? Lastly, how DHA will ensure that all offices provide smart identity cards considering that there are some offices in the rural areas that do not provide this service?
Mr A Roos (DA) said that what stood out from the presentation was the focus on the impact of COE which has grown out of proportion in the last decade. However, the report did not highlight people’s needs. He was not satisfied with the targets for birth registrations and passports as they exclude a lot of people. If DHA target is only 700 000 births, what will happen to the other births? For the Committee to support this budget, clarity is required. Several clarity-seeking questions followed. These included: will DHA be sending out mobile units to enhance service delivery and is there a schedule? Will its offices operate on Saturdays? DHA has explained the challenges it faces with its system being offline but is SITA really the only solution to this problem? Have the problem about backup power systems and generators that are not in place been addressed? What about the staff’s incapability to switch on a router? How is it possible that DHA says that it is understaffed when compensation of employees has increased just under 9% each year since 2008/9? Each year the wage bill of employees has been increased but fewer identity documents are processed; this has been occurring even before the pandemic. Twelve years ago, DHA could process 1.2 million birth certificates but can now only process 800 000 at maximum capacity. Being underfunded is only a part of the problem. If the presentation provides that DHA is 100% functional then why has there been a reduction in productivity? One of the probable reasons for this reduction in productivity is corruption. There are agencies that provide Home Affairs documents at a significant fee. For example, citizenship services are closed but there are people who provide these legit documents. Someone at Home Affairs is processing these documents while the applications of the people who applied at the front office are sitting on the side. It is much more profitable for the official to process documents under these circumstances and this results in the procedure not being fixed or improved.
Mr Roos expressed appreciation for the Minister’s investigation into the fake permits even though it cost R5 million and asked what criminal charges are laid against officials who resign after an investigation. Specifically, will criminal charges be laid against the former Chief Director of Permitting who was fingered in permit corruption.
Contingent liabilities sit way above R2 billion as Home Affairs is losing court cases. Not only is it losing cases, but it is also getting lambasted by the courts. Currently, there are arrest orders against the Minister and the Director-General for contempt of court. Contingent liabilities were not included in the presentation, so how much is being paid out in legal fees and for court cases that have been lost?
Mr Roos was concerned about the BMA being listed as one of the projects to be in danger. If DHA cannot manage its wage bill does this mean that the implementation time frame has been pushed out. The Committee had asked for an implementation plan last term and it still has not been received. Specifically, are the wages of the port coordinators that DHA wants to appoint included in the DHA budget and added to compensation of employees?
Mr Roos welcomed the digitization project and requested more information on the plan, time frame and asked if all the archives will be digitised. Lastly, he asked if DHA has checked that the Cuban engineers have the relevant work permit and on what basis were the permits awarded given that such skills should be readily available in South Africa.
Mr M Lekota (COPE) emphasised the lack of DHA funding. Foreign nationals are allowed into our country but there is no budget set aside for them. He found it very difficult to expect the Minister to have the funds for them. International legislation needs to be taken into account. South Africa cannot be home to so many foreign nationals. There are people who do not want to leave Cape Town and also do not want to go back to their own country.
The Acting Chairperson provided a recap of the concerns, suggestions and questions raised by Members and invited responses from the Director-General and Minister.
Mr Makhode replied that DHA will look into the suggestion of revisiting the targets but National Treasury and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) provide two conditions under which those targets can be changed: 1 )if the service environment and environment has changed and 2) if there are policy shifts. The target setting must follow a particular process that is defined by Treasury and DPME. It is known as a SMART principle – it has to be specific, measurable, accurate, realistic and time-bound. A baseline is normally used such as looking at what has happened over a particular period of time. Information from Statistics SA and from the Department of Health is also used to set specific targets. DHA does not thumb suck the APP targets. He noted that the Committee has requested DHA present on the progress it has made at Wingfield and Paint City on 11 May 2021.
DHA already has an ongoing awareness programme to ensure that all individuals collect their identity documents at least the weekend before the elections begin. This is done by the Civics team. Mobile units have also been deployed and are functional. However, opening Home Affairs offices on weekends is something that needs to be engaged with the Department of Labour.
On the question of modernising offices in the rural areas, he noted that offices in Mdantsane and Lusikisiki have been redesigned and modernised to ensure they provide the required efficiency and service delivery.
DHA is currently working with four big banks – ABSA, First National Bank, Standard Bank and Nedbank. It has also brought Discovery, Capitec and Investec on board and is in the process of bringing more banks in to alleviate the problem of long queues.
Mr Makhode welcomed the comment from Ms van der Merwe on the GBV target, and replied that DHA is working with a lot of other departments and non-government organisations in hosting the GBV awareness campaign.
On inspections for immigration legislation compliance, he replied that more inspections can only be done if DHA is working with other entities such as the South African Police Service (SAPS), Tshwane Metro Police, Johannesburg Metro Police and so on.
Mr Makhode replied that the DHA officials who have been fingered for corruption are currently going through disciplinary processes and DHA is working with the Hawks in certain instances. He cannot divulge further based on the sensitivity of the matter.
On DHA’s failure to respond to queries, DHA is working on an integrated query system and will be able to respond to queries timeously.
Mr Makhode replied that there are no Home Affairs offices that do not have a generator as part of a backup power so this cannot be an excuse for offices being closed.
On BMA funding, he explained that the budget has moved to R120 million to operationalise its functions.
Deputy Minister Njabulo Nzuza asked DDG Mavuso to reply to the questions Mr Makhode did not deal with.
Mr Thulani Mavuso, DDG: Institutional Planning and Support and Acting DDG: Information Services, replied that the banks have not signed the memorandum of agreement for expansion. The banks have raised a few issues that they are still discussing. One of these was the live capture outages and the long period of time that SITA takes to install a data line. DHA cannot operate with a data line that is not secured so it must use a data line that is provided by government. DHA is also busy with an upgrade of the live capture system to make it a web-based system. The banks have indicated that they want to wait and see how this web-based upgrade will perform. The biggest challenge right now is the staff and this limits how far DHA can expand its footprint because the staff that will work at the banks must be trained and provided by DHA.
Mr Mavuso agreed about modernising all offices. The biggest constraint is floor space. Live capture requires adequate floor space to be able to do segregation of duties. For example, it would need about five officials to operate a live capture office. There is an office in the Eastern Cape that was modernised which is always empty and DHA is trying to reroute the traffic from King Williams Town to that office. DHA is also working with the Department Public Works to identify other offices that need to be modernised.
The Committee was taken through the architecture of the live capture system which causes the system to be down if there is an overload.
On the management of public queries, Mr Mavuso replied that DHA has an in-house contact centre which is currently only operating at a 50% capacity due to social distancing, but it is hoping to increase it to 75%.
The Acting Chairperson said that a request will be made to the Chairperson to set a date and invite SITA and DHA to discuss the system being offline considering we are approaching the local government elections.
Mr Hollamby replied that for the 2019/20 financial year R75 million in legal fees was paid.
Deputy Minister Njabulo Nzuza said that the impact of COVID-19 has been severe on DHA and it brought on a number of challenges such as budget constraints and staff availability. These have contributed towards DHA having to review some of its targets. Despite these challenges, DHA has measures in place to open its offices on weekends only for the collection of identity documents. The objective is to grow its footprint as much as possible. Therefore DHA is now participating in the Presidential Infrastructure programme and ten new offices have been submitted which will be modernised.
The Minister welcomed the Acting Chairperson’s suggestion of having a meeting with SITA. It must be understood that DHA is working within the country’s developmental state. The fortunes of DHA are linked to the fortunes of the country. Therefore, the efficiency of DHA depends on the country. Broadband network connectivity and Eskom have a massive impact on DHA productivity and functioning. For example, if there is a problem with electricity services or network connectivity, DHA comes to a halt. This is in contrast to other government entities, like SARS, which one will never hear of its systems being offline due to network connectivity or electricity outages. This problem was foreseen and SARS was exempted from having to rely only on SITA for IT services when the SITA Act was enacted.
The Minister said the reason some offices can provide smart identity cards and others cannot is because of location and modernisation.
On immigration, the Minister pointed to the press conference where he had stated that there are no refugee camps in South Africa. This is not even provided for by any law. This decision was made deliberately by the post-apartheid government to promote the right to freedom of movement. The Head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr Leonard Zulu, has also emphasised this. The tents in Cape Town were put up in terms of the COVID-19 regulations after DHA was ordered by the Cape High Court to remove the protestors from outside the churches before the pandemic. He noted that what is happening in the tents has nothing to do with the lack of funding by DHA as there is no legislation that provides for this. The foreign nationals in the tents do not want to return to their countries nor do they want to live in South Africa, instead, they demand to be taken to Canada because Quebec offers a lot of social benefits. The United Nations has made it clear that this is not going to happen. Also, South Africa has no ties with Quebec. DHA will be taking action, regardless how extreme but legal, to close down the tents.
On management of MPs' queries, he replied that specific DHA officials have been appointed to deal with each query sent by Members. This will enhance accountability and transparency.
On deportation, DHA deports people in accordance with court orders. It is not self-hate.
On South African employers hiring only foreign nationals, he replied that there was no law against this. The laws are only for foreign employers. However, things have to change, and a bill needs to be made.
On targets and how they exclude the rest of the population, he explained there are 1 million births annually in South Africa and the target of 700 000 relates to giving a birth certificate in 30 days while the rest are not given within the 30-day period. It does not mean that the rest of the population will not receive a birth certificate.
On corruption and criminal charges, he noted that the Hawks have not stepped in to lay criminal charges against a lady who was selling visas to Pakistan nationals 18 months after she was fired but DHA always contacts the Hawks after dismissing an employee.
The Acting Chairperson thanked DHA and its staff and also complimented the work it has done despite being underfunded and constrained by COVID-19 regulations. He asked Members to submit written questions to the Committee Secretary for discussion on 11 May 2021 as proposed by Ms van der Merwe and an update and solutions must be provided. DHA must also bring a report on counter-corruption measures.
Mr Tshwaku welcomed the suggestion to have a special meeting to get a report on DHA service delivery and he asked for DHA to provide a report on investigations of all criminal activities at DHA.
Mr Roos pointed out his unanswered question on Cuban engineers receiving work payments or not.
The meeting was adjourned.
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