The Portfolio Committee convened virtually, and was briefed by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) on its fourth quarter performance and expenditure reports. It heard that the Department had achieved 17(63%) of its 27 annual performance plan targets. There had been a 1% drop in its performance compared to the previous year. However, the Department had performed well considering the impact of Covid-19.The report indicated areas of over-achievement, and the DHA was commended by the Committee. The DHA said it would report on a turnaround strategy, with direct timelines, on areas where there had been under-achievement.
There had been three engagements with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) around the service level agreements. SITA was responsible for the Department's network infrastructure.
The Committee expressed concern at the overall performance of the Department. Criticisms had been mounting over the slow pace of the Border Management Authority's (BMA's) incremental roll out, and the reason given for the non-achievement of the target. A Member commented that there did not seem to be any urgency to solve the BMA problem.
Other issues highlighted by the Committee included the digitisation of the population register, progress on persuading the unions to agree to working on Saturdays, and the overall performance and outcomes on the DHA's law enforcement operations and inspections.
The Chairperson was on sick leave, and the Committee had to choose a Member as acting Chairperson. A call for nominations was made, and Mr Chabane was elected as acting Chairperson.
The acting Chairperson greeted all present, and welcomed the Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Home Affairs, and Mr Njabulo Nzaza, Deputy Minister. He said it had been important to celebrate Women’s Month though had come with its own challenges recently. There had been the brutal murder of a student from the University of Fort Hare, and it was important to remain fighting on the issues of gender-based violence (GBV).
Minister Motsoaledi said it was important to remember that the performance report reflected activities during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, when certain services were suspended. The Department had lost seven members due to Covid-19, and precautionary measures had to be taken. Services had been cut, and this would be reflected in the report. Since 2014, the Department had not had a Chief Information Officer (CIO), and there were important positions vacant, with acting staff. Posts had been advertised four times, but appointments had not been concluded. A head-hunting process had started, and Mr Mabasa had been appointed as the CIO, which was one of the critical positions in the Department.
Department of Home Affairs: Fourth quarter performance
Mr Tommy Makhode, Director-General (DG), DHA, provided an overview of the Department's fourth quarter performance and highlighted the outcomes for the 2020-2025 period.
By the end of the fourth quarter, the Department achieved 17 of the 27 (63%) annual performance plan (APP) targets. There had been a 1% drop in performance compared to 2019/20. However, it had performed well considering the impact of Covid-19.
He reported on the targets per programme. The multiple preferred bidder appointment for the development of six land ports of entry target had been not achieved due to companies having been liquidated, and the process had had to be restarted. This had been reported to the Committee previously. A detailed analysis of reasons for not achieving targets was presented.
(See attached presentation for details).
Mr Gordon Hollamby, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), DHA, presented the financial information, and said the Department had not spent the full allocated budget. The expenditure at the end of 2020/21 financial year was at 96.4% of the budget. The under-spending was a direct result of Compensation of Employees (CoE) and self financing. Self-financing depended on revenue collected. The cost of living allowances had not materialised as anticipated, and the under-collection on revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic had limited spending on self-financing.
The spending of Programme 1 at the end of 2020/21 was at 97.4%, the spending of Programme 2 was at 95.3%, and the spending on Programme 3 was at 99.2%
(See attached presentation for details).
The acting Chairperson said that the Department must draw up a turnaround strategy on the targets not achieved, inclusive of timeframes.
Ms M Molekwa (ANC) said there were programmes where the Department had not achieved its targets, but surely progress was made. It was encouraged to achieve all its set targets. There was an action plan in place, and the Committee welcomed the report.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) said the Department needed a turnaround plan on targets not achieved. It was good to hear that the anti-corruption unit was making progress. Some of the targets that were not achieved had involved immigration affairs. She sought clarity on timelines with the sourcing of service providers, and what exactly was meant by extending engagements with the current system provider.
The non-compliance with supply chain management (SCM) policies had had a negative impact on the evaluation process. Who had been responsible, the Department or the State Information Technology Agency (SITA)? Programme 3 (Immigration Affairs) had spent 99% of the total budget, but not all the targets had been achieved. The reasons was given were based on the inspections, the work conducted and the budget. There had been a discussion that engagement would take place with various ambassadors. Could the Department not recover the money from the countries of origin?
The ringleaders at the Cape Town protest had been mentioned by the Minister. What progress had been made with the people housed at the Wingfield and Maitland centres?
As reported in slide 20, credit needed to be given where it was due regarding the achieved targets on law enforcement operations and inspections conducted. However, there was a disjuncture between what had been presented in the report and what was happening on the ground. During the oversight visit with the Department of Social Development to different communities, there had been complaints about undocumented migrants and undocumented children from illegal foreign nationals. It would be good if information on operations and inspections conducted could be provided to the Committee. The issue of SITA being unable to provide a service according to the requirements of the Department still remained.
There was a concern with the Border Management Authority (BMA) incremental roll out that was moving at a slow pace. More concerning was the reason given for the non-achievement of the target -- that a steering committee was required to lead the establishment of the National Targeting Centre (NTC), but no feedback had been received from the relevant departments to nominate senior officials to serve on the committee. This indicated a lack of political will to make the BMA work. Had this issue been raised with the President or Cabinet regarding departments not providing assistance with the roll out of the BMA? What were the time frames around the commissioner appointments?
Ms A Khanyile (DA) sought clarity on smart cards. Was the smart card printed and collected, or just printed? The Department must set targets for the certificates for late births, unabridged birth certificates and marriages, because there were a lot of documents to be processed due to the backlog. The interventions by the Minister and Deputy Minister were appreciated, but there was a lot of administration. She also wanted an update on the progress with the collection of identity documents (IDs).
Ms L Tito (EFF) asked the Minister if there were plans to procure more mobile trucks, as that would provide more assistance with service delivery. There had been delays reported with the establishment of a college -- when would the consultations with the National School of Government (NSG) be concluded?
Mr G Hendricks (Al Jama-ah) said that the energy of the Minister in fast tracking processes and interventions over the last few months had been amazing. However, he had jumped the gun, based on the Green Paper. He had not waited for the report from the South African Law Reform Commission, d this report was not finalised yet. The Green Paper did not have the wisdom of the latest research findings of the Commission.
In December, there had been a Supreme Court of Appeal judgment for the government to introduce a Muslim marriage bill. It had said that the policy would be ready only later. This meant the Department would miss the deadline and would be non-compliant with the rule of law. He was happy that the spokesperson of the Minister had engaged on how to resolve the dilemmas in the Department, and the interest shown by the Minister in the new and amendment to legislation. What was the way forward on the Muslim marriage bill? Questions had been directed on the chat-line to the DG, and a positive response from the Minister and the Department would be appreciated.
Mr A Roos (DA) said the slides on strategy and outcomes were important, in particular the item of securing a serviceable population register. Records had been lying in piles in a basement during a visit. Where was the Department with regard to digitising these records, and was it true that facilities were so bad that officials were scared to fetch documents? Were these facilities operational and staff able to retrieve documents? The accessibility model was welcomed, and should be circulated to the Committee. Did the model include offices at shopping centres and an increase in mobile units? What consequence management measures had been taken on the issues involving procurement? This was not the first time the DHA had experienced challenges with procurement, resulting in delays in critical projects. This needed to be fixed. Whose fault was it, SITA's or the Department's? He congratulated the Department on achieving the targets on the registration of birth certificates, smart ID cards and passports on civic affairs.
No target had been set for the "war on queues." This was an important project launched in 2018. How was the Department measuring progress on the project? There were network challenges within offices of the Department. Why did it not have a network backup in the major offices? The report indicated network upgrades, so where was the Department with work on the network challenges?
It was previously reported that discussions regarding work on Saturdays had been tabled with the unions. What was happening about on working on Saturdays? It did not look as if this was considered an important area. How were school learners getting their IDs if they were at school during the week? A roll out plan needed to be communicated on how the Department would address this challenge, as it seemed it had given up.
Immigration affairs' annual target was 200 law enforcement inspections, and the Department had conducted 120 in the fourth quarter. Theoretically, this meant the Department was able to conduct 400 law enforcement operations and inspections annually. What were the criteria for undertaking a law enforcement operation, because there was evidence of undocumented immigrants? The target for business and critical skills visas had been dramatically under-achieved, and civic services over-achieved. Why was there an imbalance, and how would this be addressed? He agreed with Ms Van der Merwe that the Department needed a turnaround plan on targets not achieved. It did not seem as if there was an urgency to solve the problem regarding the BMA. On the self-financing expenditure, what was the reason for only spending 39.7% of the budget on the counter corruption and security item?
Mr K Pillay (ANC) said Covid-19 posed a huge risk for the country and it was difficult to mitigate risks. However, a year later all had to find ways to accommodate and work around it. It was important to commend and congratulate the Department and the leadership on targets achieved. The key areas where it mattered most in terms of community services had been achieved and over-achieved. It was important to note that 96% of the budget had been spent, with 63% of the targets met. The Department's performance was the lowest compared to previous years in terms of finances. The report, however, reflected why this was the case. The areas where targets were not achieved had been explained.
The fact that Department had been able to over-achieve on births registered within 30 days and smart ID cards issued, was highly commendable.
The focus should be on how to improve in the next financial year and improving on targets. He supported the proposal of the Chairperson regarding the turnaround strategy and the need for direct timelines. It was vital to conduct risk assessments in order to be in line and up to date with the current climate and circumstances. This would mitigate risks.
The Chairperson said one of the strengths they needed to agree on as a collective was to be critical on witnesses identified. There also needed to be a positive attitude on the progress and performance. Where the Department was doing exceptionally well, it had to be communicated to the people. What mattered, in terms of the DHA's work, was to ensure services were rendered. The message must be communicated on the necessary platforms and to critical witnesses.
The DHA must provide a report on the anti-corruption work performed, with the emphasis on timeframes. At the previous meeting it was reported that a team would deal with the issues of payments, and feedback on the progress with this was needed.
Mr Makhode said a turnaround plan on the non-achieved areas would be provided. The work performed by the counter-corruption unit would be reported on and presented. Immigration targets for when the system would be in place to recover monies from other countries would be reported on by the Deputy Director General (DDG). There were still discussions and engagements regarding the recovery of funds from other countries. The Department would come back to the Committee with a report on the challenges and the proposals to recover these funds.
With regard to the Wingfield situation, the three spheres of government were working well together. Collaboration with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) was also taking place, and the last report by the Commission indicated that more than 800 people had volunteered for integration. An application for an eviction order had been made, as the structures could not just be removed. Regarding law enforcement operations and inspections, work had been conducted with the SAPS, the City of Cape Town and law enforcement agencies. The Department was able to provide a breakdown on law enforcement operations.
There had been three engagement with SITA on the service level agreements. SITA was responsible for the network infrastructure, and had indicated that for the Department to reach gold level status, it needed an amount of R200 million. This was money the Department did not have. It would have to work around the challenges and look at alternatives. There had been support with regard to the digitisation of records, and this would improve efficiency. There had been support from the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) that had some of its entities working in this space. There had also been a commitment to fund this process. R18 million had been set aside to start the process of digitisation, but this was a drop in the ocean considering the number of records to be digitised.
The request by Mr Hendricks regarding the Muslim Marriage Bill would be discussed in a separate meeting with the policy unit. The Department was working closely with the South African Law Reform Commission, which entailed periodic meetings. This was to ensure that all processes and proposals were aligned.
The intervention at Brooklyn had taken place through the involvement of the immigration officer at the Department. It had been able to respond speedily by collaborating on the protest.
There was a backlog team working hard on a daily basis to address visa issues. A report would be provided and presented on the BMA project plan and progress.
Mr Thulani Mavuso, DDG: Institutional Planning and Support, DHA, said there had been a delay in the process of the system to finish the work of the asylum seeker model on life capture. The process would be split up during the three quarters. The user specification would be done in the second quarter, the technical specifications in the third quarter, and the development of a prototype in the fourth quarter. The services from the South African Revenue Service (SARS) through the indirect contract would expire in March 2022, and work would continue until the model went into the market and the advertisement of the bid.
Mr Modiri Matthews, Chief Director: Inspectorate, DHA, said the impact with regard to inspections were in the areas mentioned in the report. Collaboration on law enforcement operations had been done with SAPS and the metro. There were weekend operations, and Departmental operations on a smaller scale. The Department collaborated with other law enforcement agencies on tip-offs and roadblocks. It was able to provide an analysis on operations and the outcomes.
Ms Nkidi Mohoboka, DDG: Human Resource Management, DHA, said not much progress had been made on work being done on Saturdays. The Department had engaged with the unions, and the union expected a plan from the Department. These plans should entail the details of work on Saturdays, combined with remuneration. As one could can see from the report presented, there were no funds available, so there was a stalemate. However, negotiations would continue with the unions.
Minister Motsoaledi said that the questions and input from the Members coincided with the planning within the Department, and the DG had answered most questions. There was an issue with corruption which existed within the Department. Major confrontations were taking place as investigations were being conducted.
There were no obligations from countries of origin to pay money. However, negotiations were taking place, and a workshop next week would look at incorporating the challenges into legislation. Legislation and policies not implemented must be identified. It was important for local authorities to implement laws and by-laws.
There was an over-reliance on SITA by the Department. There had been a discussion with National Treasury and SITA with the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies. The challenge with the BMA rollout was causing frustration while it was moving at a slow pace. The DHA was looking forward to a solution of the problems, and was happy to announce the commissioners would be appointed soon. Recommendations had been made, and the President would make the selection based on the recommended candidates.
There was a certification backlog, and the civic service unit had developed a plan to deal with the birth certificates. Currently there were three types of birth certificates -- abridged, unabridged, and a normal certificate with complete and detailed information, but without the title of abridged or unabridged. There was a backlog because of digitisation. Infrastructure South Africa would assist the process, and help to customise the offices. The mobile offices would be procured from the available budget to ensure that not only birth certificates were processed, but also marriage certificates.
Deputy Minister Nzaza said that timeframes would be communicated on targets not achieved. The Department would appreciate the support from the Committee in the long term. Some of the ID cards were collected, and some were not collected. There were plans to put more mobile units in place, as this helped with the collection process. It was important for the Department to increase its footprint at hospitals and communities.
The Chairperson said there had been major areas of concern emanating from the Committee and the Minister. The Minister and the DHA teams would report back on issues raised and the progress made. Important interventions had been made, in particular with regard to the South African Post Office (SAPO) situation. The Committee supported the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, and was confident that she would take her Department to new heights. It appreciated the approach she was adopting on accountability.
Adoption of minutes
The Committee considered and adopted minutes for 2 March, 4, 7, 11, and 18 May, 1 June, 30 July and 17 August 2021.
The meeting was adjourned.
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