Department Budget: briefing

Home Affairs

01 June 2004
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Meeting report

HOME AFFAIRS AD HOC COMMITTEE
2 June 2004
DEPARTMENT BUDGET: BRIEFING


Chairperson: Mr H Chauke (ANC)

Relevant Documents:
Information and Technology presentation
Fraudulent Marriages presentation
Painting Campaign 2004/2005

Summary
The Committee discussed the Budget presentation and inputs were given by representatives of the sections such as Human Resources, Training, Legal Services and Civic Services.

Discussion
The Chairperson opened the meeting saying he wanted to correct the perception that the Portfolio Committee liked to attack the department. The Committee wanted to work with the department and it merely highlighted the challenges. Criticism was not an attack.

Mr K Morwamoche (ANC) asked why there was no budget to erect a Home Affairs office in the Limpopo because currently they were renting premises for thirty thousand rand a month.

Mr Khambule (Chief Financial Officer: Home Affairs) explained that according to the schedule five offices in Limpopo had been identified for renovation. Renovation depended on the capacity of the Public Works Department (PWD). Most of the Home Affairs offices were leased spaces. The sourcing of accommodation depended on resources and the PWD capacity to work on certain projects. Each province had its own budget so they were not targeting just one.

Mr W M Skhosana (ANC) asked why the renovation of offices in Rustenburg had not been budgeted for since it had been discussed the previous year. How far were the renovations and why were they not budgeted for. Was PWD doing the renovations or was a private company tendering?

Mr Khambule replied that he had no details about the status of Rustenburg. In previous years nine offices had been repaired and Rustenburg had been one of them. Mr Chavalala (Acting Chief of Civil Services: Home Affairs) added that they had acquired a new office in Rustenburg and they were currently moving into it.

Mr Khambule said they were working hand in hand with PWD. Maintenance and construction was done through the PWD. Home Affairs was allowed to do only minor renovations. The PWD had just completed an assessment report on all government buildings. All the projects were being implemented. The PWD would put out a tender for renovations and construction.

Ms S Kalyan (DA) asked why there was such a large roll over amount. How could the National Treasury approve this?

Mr Khambule explained that there were reasons for the savings. It was not the department's intention to under spend. There had been difficulties finding suitable suppliers and converting fingerprints into electronic format in HANIS. Funds had been committed, the orders had already been issued but there was a problem with the turnaround time for delivery. Treasury based its authorisation of roll-overs on particular criteria and they were only approved on committed expenditure. Treasury considered the department's past track record and the current committed funds. A major requirement was the capacity to deliver on certain projects. The Department had received word that their request for a roll-over would be accepted before the end of the year

In reply to Mr M Swart (DA) asking if there was chance that the roll-over would not be approved, Mr Khambule said that the Department was positive that they would get approval.

Mr Morwamoche commented that the Portfolio Committee should discourage roll-overs when the Department had not attended to its lack of offices and IT equipment.

Mr Khambule said that the roll-over was not considerable. They were constantly liaising with the PWD but they were not putting pressure on the PWD to finalise projects.

Mr S Vundisa (ANC) commented that the department was not short of resources since they had handed over offices to the South African Police Service. He asked what was the reason for the reduction in the Northern Cape's allocation for 2005/06.

Mr Khambule explained that the Northern Cape's allocation for 2004/05 was a notable increase from its previous expenditure. The increase was slotted for new staffing and equipment which was a once-off. The drop was a reasonable one. The Northern Cape had had an almost 100% expenditure. Size and dynamics determined the allocated budget and the Northern Cape did not have factors such as a port of entry or international airports.

Ms M Maunye (ANC) asked why in last year's budget there was an allocation for rewriting the population register. A task team had been appointed so how far was the process. Money was allocated last year and for this year. Why was this so? She then referred to the Director General's presentation noting the three external consultants who were acting as project managers. The funds for this had not been indicated. Were these external consultants former employees of the department?

Ms Z Mungalo (Acting Chief of Information Systems: Home Affairs) explained that the rewriting of the population register was part of the development of systems. Development happened in a staggered fashion and an integrated approach was used so that the population register was a document that did not stand alone. It was needed for other factors therefore the population register rewrite was part of the bigger picture of HANIS Reloaded.

Mr C Smit (Programme Manager of TAS) stated that TAS was an internally driven project led by project leaders from the department. The three consultants who were women were there to offer support and made fairly modest contributions. These women were not old employees either. They were there to focus on the project and transfer skills. The TAS programme budget of R6.3 million included the cost of consultants.

The Chair asked how much was spent on consultants. Were they useful and were they producing results? If not, the department should be using internal staff. The department was under funded and they did not have the capacity to deal with such a situation.

Mr Gogotya (ANC) asked about the duration of the consultants' contracts.

Mr Khambule replied that most of the consultants were IT related. Highly technical skills were required that the department did not have.

The Chairperson ruled that a report would have to be done about the mandate that was given to the Department and SITA (State Information and Technology Agency). The Committee had mandated them to sit down and discuss issues facing the lack of IT in the department.

Mr S Swart (ACDP) commented that although the Department was appointing thousands of personnel, people were still very far from the Department's offices. There was still no service delivery. Had the Department given consideration to giving over some of the functions to local authorities who were closer to the people.

Ms L Mabe (ANC) asked about Mpumalanga offices and informed the Department that they needed corporate colours.

Mr Skhosana asked for clarity on the medium term expenditure in the Budget Briefing Document. Why were there such big gaps in the budget for training?

Mr Khambule showed the Committee that the baseline figures included a substantial amount for training.

Mr Morwamoche asked why the provisioning was only done by whites. There were no blacks and therefore no integration. He asked why Limpopo was given such a small budget. Further why did the Department not pay relocation costs when staff had been moved from Limpopo to the Eastern Cape.

The Chairperson ruled that transformation would be dealt with in the administration section. He instructed Mr Khambule to answer the second question.

Mr Khambule replied that he was not clear about relocation funds but he would get the details. As far as he knew the provincial budget did cover staff relocation costs.

Mr Morwamoche gave more details in that officials from Limpopo were deployed to the Eastern Cape. The officials had stayed in a hotel at the expense of the province for thirty thousand rand.

Mr Chavalala said that the member was referring to a task team that had been deployed to the Eastern Cape in December and January to assist with the distribution of identity documents (IDs). They went on the instruction of the Department and the policy was that if there was movement from head office the Department had to pay for costs.

The Chairperson asked why if the official was deployed to the Eastern Cape by the Department, National government did not pay. Why did the province have to pay?

Mr Chavalala said that when an official was asked to assist they claimed from the travel budget where their salary was drawn from. That was based on the rules.

The Chairperson noted that the Department had not dealt with the Auditor General's Report on the Department. How was the Department dealing with the problems identified such as with the Government Printing Works (GPW) and the Lindela detention centre?

Mr Khambule replied that an individual had been deployed to Lindela to deal with the issue. The individual was verifying the figures and doing a proper reconciliation. The staff issue was also raised. They were currently interviewing staff for Lindela. Currently things were going well and they were upgrading the IT system. The conversions would be dealt with once the problems with the financial systems were sorted out.

The Report had mentioned the unclear suspense account which they had subsequently worked hard to clear. Late submissions of financial statements had been raised in the Report. Since then financial statements have all been submitted on time.

There had been a lack of controls in the GPW. Task teams had been appointed to raise the standard of the GPW. There was an internal acting Chief Investigating Officer. They did want an outsider to ensure controls.

The Report had mentioned the need to deal with debtors. Other departments were not paying their bills. The problem had been dealt with by insisting on monthly payments otherwise debtors were charged monthly interest. There had been gradual improvements.

In relation to fraud, some officials had been arrested and prosecuted. They had requested an independent audit firm, Ernst & Young, to do a forensic audit. The Department needed reasonable assurance that there were no hidden issues. The GPW was meant to be converted to a public entity. They were currently finalising the business case (plan). The business case would go to Treasury at the end of June. Treasury would take a decision and then from there it would need legislation from Parliament.

In reply to the Chair's questions, Mr Khambule said that no debt collection needed to be done from foreign countries as the debtors were mainly government departments. He did not know if the Department was providing any printing to other countries. The Chair instructed him to find out and report back.

The Committee then heard inputs from various branches of the Department:

Human Resources
Mr C Smit said that the key challenge for the Department in Human Resources was to recruit and retain staff and ensure equity. Currently there was a negative turnaround of staff. The Department had a recruitment campaign on the ground. One thousand positions had been advertised with over half of these positions now filled. Of the 594 posts filled, 379 came from external sources and the remainder was internal recruitment. Although progress had been made, more work needed to be done. Home Affairs had to be the employer of choice and create careers. Other challenges involved HIV/AIDS, the lack of a wellness programme and lifting the morale of the staff. Key to the staff establishment was the creation of four new Deputy Director General positions at head office. There was a significant expansion in the provinces. More funding over the next five years was needed to afford the proper complement of management and operational positions.

Training
Ms P Mazombe said that previously they had not had an integrated development programme for staff. There was now a strategy to place, train and retrain. The attitude of the staff was being tackled with a 'the Customer is always right' campaign to improve customer service. There were more programmes to train employees on computer usage as many Department staff did not know how to use the computers. They wanted to conduct a skills audit because this had never been done before by the Department. An internship system was starting in July. The internship programme would give valuable experience to people and it would start building a pool of personnel from which the Department could draw.

There was also a management programme which equipped managers with skills to effectively manage. This integrated approach to human resource development meant that each new employee would be trained at the beginning for three months. The Department was intervening in both areas because the right skills were coming in and retraining was happening parallel to the induction training. It was critical to do human resource development. The Department had to get funding to ensure sustainability. They were also reviewing the bursary system which currently recruited people with qualifications. They were reviewing the regulations to encourage staff with qualifications to apply.

Legal Services
Advocate Malatji said that capacity was included in the new organisational structure by ensuring that officials where properly placed with the correct qualifications and expertise. The new establishment would separate litigation and drafting. The section not only dealt with legislation but also international agreements, litigation and gave advice. They had advertised many posts with the main one being a post for Director of Drafting. Currently there were problems because they were using lawyers to do administrative work. Advertisements for administrators had been placed. In relation to funding, there were poor funding strategies. Eight million was not enough to cover everything including the training of the staff. Systems had been manual because of a lack of funding. The system had to be made electronic and the IT plans would assist in that regard.

The legislative programme for the year would be led by a team that would look at the Acts that the Department was administrating to identify areas that needed work. This team would be in a better position to submit Bills in time. Certain Acts were not only Home Affairs responsibility. For example the Independent Electoral Commission put in an urgent amendment because there no provision for the term of office for local councillors. The nature of the work meant that the Department only became aware of a problem when it was brought to their attention. Part and parcel of the work was urgent Bills. The regulations of the Immigration Bill was currently on the table. This had to be finalised by next week in accordance with the timeframes from the President. However other Bills would be received well in time by the Committee and not in a rush.

Discussion
Mr M P Sibande said that the inputs had been superb. Officials had to be free to discuss what they were facing. He asked about transformation and the elections in Pretoria because they were very white. What were the new developments. He also asked if they were training staff they were also employing from inside. What timeframes had been put in place to train the staff and was the recruitment drive reaching rural areas because many areas did not get newspapers. He asked Advocate Malatji what the timeframes were to transfer the records from manual to electronic formats.

Ms Mazome said that training and recruiting of internal staff would start in July. Each project had been allocated time so they wanted to succeed with one project and then move on to another. She explained that advertisements had gone out nationwide and they looked at newspapers that were affordable. They advertised on campuses and community radio stations at all times taking provincial dynamics into account. They did try to reach everyone.

Ms Gxowa related her question to the timeframes set up by the President. What were the timeframes for the training of staff because bridging the gap was huge. The recruitment of staff would be urban based when looking at the rural reality. How were they bridging the gap especially for women. She asked who would be the beneficiaries of the bursaries employees or students outside with aims to recruit them. She told Advocate Malatji that the legal expansion was good but would it improve the disaster of the Department's legal drafting.

Ms Mazombe explained that there were timeframes for the training programmes. In fact some had already started for example 'the Customer is always Right Campaign'. The question of finance was a problem though. Timeframes for internships to start was July and learnerships was 2005. the training of the Department's systems would be added onto the computer programmes. She explained that this bursary programme would be looking at external recruits because currently the programme was only for internal staff. They did also want to make the programme more user friendly for internal staff so that more staff would take up the opportunity.

Mr Morwamoche congratulated the Department for opening district offices. He had a serious concern about the printing section of IDs. In the rural areas the same mistake kept coming back. Was there supervision to change the head. He also asked if the human resource posts had taken into consideration voluntary workers because they had some experience of how things worked.

Ms Mazome explained that volunteer workers had been used a lot but that they had been let go because it was seen as cheap labour. Volunteer workers were not placed randomly into internships. They would be absorbed into the Department linked to their field of study. Their appointment would be relevant to their study.

Mr Vundisa asked about the transformation of the Department. He referred to the many spelling errors of African names and asked how many Africans were working in the printing section? The member had never heard of white people's surnames being printed incorrectly. He wanted to know why. He also asked why the masses had to pay for the mistakes of the Department.

Ms Mazombe replied that they would train all employees regardless of whether they were black or white because they all should be able to copy the name and surname correctly from the application document.

Ms L Mabe (ANC) asked about staffing employment equity. Had gender been considered and if so, how many women and disabled people had been employed? She also asked the relationship between the South African Post Office and the Department with regard to the distribution of IDs.

Ms Mazombe responded that on the issue of transformation the Department was very slow in transforming. They did take the issue of gender, colour and disability very seriously and they did have a policy about it. There was a committee checking implementation and ensuring that the Department implemented what was on paper. Very few women were senior managers and they had yet to meet employment equity targets.

The Chair said that the question about the Post Office would be dealt with by Civic Services.

In reply to a question from Mr Skhosana, Ms Mazombe explained that the 350 interns were chosen nation-wide so that all the provinces would benefit. They had targeted youth. This did not mean that they would exclude older people who applied but it would mostly benefit the youth.

Mr Vundisa again asked for a response to his question on how many Africans were employed in the printing section and why the masses had to pay for the mistakes of the Department.

Mr Chavalala said that he did not know how many blacks there were in GPW.

Mr L Mashokwe (Director of Communication) commented that the issue was the mistakes and not how many blacks or whites there were. The population register had the same problem. They had to attend to and rectify the problem.

The Chairperson added that on discovering mistakes in their Ids, some people went to rectify this only to find that the population register had the same mistake. When the Department made a mistake the people should not have to pay. This had to be rectified.

Civic Services
Mr Chavalala said that Civic Services had 3 directorates. He pointed out that a birth certificate was just a printed document which anybody could forge. The ID card had to be one that could be used to access bank accounts, social grants and so on. Thus they had to be as secure as possible. The current ID book was not sufficiently secure which explains why the ID card could not be like a birth certificate. He mentioned that the Department was still stuck largely with manual systems and the Turnaround Strategy was designed to replace those systems over the next few years.

[PMG note: The final session of this meeting is outstanding. It will be available by 11 June]

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