Draft Strategic Plan and Review of 2004 Plan: Department briefing

Home Affairs

16 May 2005
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HOME AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
17 May 2005
DRAFT STRATEGIC PLAN AND REVIEW OF 2004 PLAN: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Mr P Chauke (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Department PowerPoint presentation
Department Strategic Plan 2005/06 – 2009/10 (available at www.home-affairs.gov.za)

SUMMARY
The Department of Home Affairs briefed the Committee on progress with its 2004 Strategic Plan and the 2005/6 draft Strategic Plan. The Director-General presented the various areas in which the Department had implemented changes and was improving services. The focus remained on the improvement of civic services and immigration procedures and the level of service delivery in general. The Director-General also dealt with the Department’s staff and infrastructure resources and their employment.

Members raised concerns about the large number of unclaimed Identity Documents (IDs), their duplication and incorrect spelling and addressing in them; the business hours of the Department’s regional offices; the fingerprint digitisation project and the state of the National Population Register.

MINUTES
The Department Director-General (D-G), Mr M Maqetuka, presented the Department’s report on the progress made on the Strategic Plan 2004/5, the alignment of the Department with the Government’s Strategic Priorities, and the Focus Areas of the reviewed Strategic Plan for 2005/6 – 2009/10. The D-G and his deputies presented the report in detail, up to the chapter dealing with Information Services. It was agreed that Members could read the remainder of the report.

The D-G reported on the progress made on civic services, especially registering undocumented citizens. He discussed the successes of the accelerated birth registration campaign and verification of marriages. He explained the Track and Trace system implemented with Identity Document (ID) applications and the recent deployment of Mobile Units. He introduced the National Immigration Branch (NIB), outlined the improvements made in the Refugee Affairs Branch, as well as the new via waiver programme with Mozambique, and attempts to tackle xenophobia.

Mr Maqetuka mentioned that service delivery was still a key area of concern. He spoke of the establishment of a Client Service Centre and the planned expansion of offices. Internationally, the Department planned representations in ten missions and had assisted the political process in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He also reported that the Transformation Steering Committee had held a workshop to address the issue of change management. The D-G reported on the progress made with clamping down on corruption.

Discussion
Mr Swart (DA) mentioned that many citizens still carried around the old (blue) IDs because these still contained the person’s firearms license and marital status. He asked how these licenses would be incorporated into the new IDs. The D-G deferred this answer until later.

Mr Swart expressed puzzlement at the Department waiting for applicants to pick up their IDs. He suggested that the Department actively inform applicants that their documents were ready for collection. He inquired whether the update of the National Voters Role was conducted by the Department or externally.

Ms T Cele, Deputy General-Director: Service Delivery explained that this work was done by consultants and was still in progress. A report would soon be presented to the Committee.

Mr Swart inquired how the ‘Track and Trace method’ worked with IDs. Mr K Hlahla, Deputy Director-General: Information Services explained that the Department was still evaluating the business processes involved in the application process for IDs. This process needed to be streamlined and newly evaluated. The technology for the tracking and tracing of IDs was available but would only be implemented once these evaluations had been done. The applications would be tagged so that their progress through the various stages of the issuing procedure could be monitored. A pilot project had been run in the Pretoria region with passport applications. Other new ideas such as the use of bulk short message service (SMS) to notify applicants, similar to the notification during the ‘Check your Marriage Status’ Campaign, were being considered.

Ms S Kalyan (DA) asked whether the Department’s offices had implemented the envisaged ‘flexi-hours’ idea for their hours of business.

Ms Cele answered that this change had been implemented and offices were open until 5 pm on weekdays and on Saturday mornings. On the latter day, however, offices were open only for document collection.

Ms Kalyan wanted the Department to provide the details on the amount of unclaimed IDs and the provincial breakdown for the unclaimed documents. It was emphasised that this information was important for the Committee to effectively deal with the Department offices during their visits to the constituencies.

Ms I Mars (IFP) added that the issue of multiple IDs was, in her opinion, a result of people applying for IDs in the ordinary fashion and then re-applying during the special Application Campaigns.

Mr Maqetuka mentioned that the Department was trying to reduce the number of unclaimed IDs by advertising in newspapers, encouraging citizens to claim their documents. Discussions had also been held with the Post Office in order to determine addresses. It was difficult to ascertain such information in rural areas. The Department wanted to start a database that would help to locate citizens so that it could effectively communicate when IDs were ready for collection. On the point of the duplication of Ids, he indicated that with the implementation of the Track and Trace technology the issue of several IDs with the same number would no longer be possible. The introduction of smart cards would not eliminate the problems connected to human errors in the application progress but would prevent double IDs from being issued.

Mr Swart wanted to know whether the new system would ‘clean out’ the National Population Register (NPR). Mr Hlahla explained that the aim was to digitise the NPR and not primarily to eliminate from it persons who were on it incorrectly. The process would, however, illuminate problems of double or illegal entries that then would need to be addressed.

The D-G explained that the state of the NPR was a concern but that the eventual results would pose a policy challenge, because Parliament would need to decide what to do if the result turned out to be that there were 1 million illegal persons in the register. A solution was not yet available.

Mr K Morwamoche (ANC) asked about the Department’s progress with the alignment of its offices with municipal boundaries and how the transformation of the provisioning section was progressing. The D-G explained that details on the alignment would follow later.

Ms O Diseko, Deputy Director-General: Corporate Services explained that with respect to the transformation of provisioning, two new directors had been appointed and had received training in Batho Phele and Service Delivery.

Mr Morwamoche pointed out that there were also problems with the incorrect spelling of names in IDs and wrong addressing.

Ms Cele explained that the Department was working on the problem with the wrong spelling of names. There was a campaign for rectification that would end in June 2005, but the Department was considering extending the campaign because of a perceived lack of public awareness. The problem of incorrect addressing of ID shipments was being discussed with the Post Office.

The Chairperson added that the problem was exacerbated by the poor dispatch procedure at the Head Office in Pretoria. The wrong spelling went back to the problem that many Department employees were not fluent in traditional languages as well as incorrect capturing of information on the application forms. He stressed that this was also a transformation issue and training needed to be provided.

A Member asked how the 68 hospitals that were electronically linked to the Department for the registration of births and deaths were distributed nationwide.

Mr Hlahla reported that there were 16 such hospitals in Gauteng, 14 in Limpopo Province, 13 in KwaZulu-Natal, 3 in the Eastern Cape, 7 in the Northern Cape, 3 in the Western Cape, 4 in the North West Province and 5 in the Free State. The D-G added that the Department was dependent on the support of the Department of Health to identify those hospitals that would most benefit from the program. Some of the provinces were more enthusiastic and supportive than others. Mr Hlahla indicated that from a technology point of view, more hospitals could be electronically equipped, but this would only be done once the provinces had the necessary capacity to benefit from the system.

The Members agreed that in many instances the mothers who had given birth and had received birth certificates were not sufficiently informed about the nature and content of the documents handed to them. It was vital to have Department staff in the hospitals to explain these procedures.

The Chairperson added that the African tradition of naming children during a ceremony ten days after birth posed an administrative problem because the birth certificate could not be finalized in the hospitals.
The D-G explained that the aim of having staff and IT links at the hospitals was to ascertain all the information possible and leave the name open on the birth certificate. It could then be completed after naming.

Mr W Skhosana (ANC) inquired about what happened to the uncollected IDs that piled up at the various provincial offices.

Ms Cele explained that the Department received monthly reports on the numbers of unclaimed IDs and details on how long they had been unclaimed. IDs that were not collected after one year were returned to the Head Office and destroyed.

Ms A Van Wyk (ANC) voiced scepticism about the goal of the Department to digitise 27 million fingerprint records by September 2006.

Mr Hlahla said that the daily output of 5 000 per day had been increased to 70 000 per day and he assured the Committee that this project would be completed on time. The Department was keeping a strict eye on the implementation of the agreement with the contractor.

Mr P Nkambule, Chief Director: Financial and Logistical Services explained that the Department faced major challenges in provisioning. Decentralisation depended heavily on the existence of capacity in the provinces. Shifting duties to the provinces was not possible without capacity existing in the provinces. This process was underway. The procurement committees had been upgraded, senior management appointed and a task team formed on decentralisation that had issued a report.

The Chairperson suggested that the Committee should take note of the report and expressed his appreciation of the work done by the D-G and his team and conveyed that he felt positive about the developments in the Department. The past two years had lead to a deeper and better understanding of the functions and operations of the Department. The relationship with the Committee had improved and the Department had improved its performance. He proposed that the report on the progress with the Strategic Plan be adopted.

Mr Swart moved to adopt the report without amendments. Ms Mars seconded the motion, and the report was adopted.

The meeting was adjourned.

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