A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
HOME AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
08 March 2006
NATIONAL IMMIGRATION BRANCH: BRIEFING
Chairperson: Mr H Chauke (ANC)
Documents handed out:
National Immigration Branch: Presentation to Home Affairs Portfolio Committee (PowerPoint)
The National Immigration Branch from the Department of Home Affairs briefed the Committee on the progress that had been made in a number of areas at both Cape Town International Airport and Johannesburg International Airport. The Minister had created a task team in order to address a number of problems that had been experienced at both airports. The briefing identified the main problems that existed and then discussed the progress that had been made with regard to these problems.
The Committee had visited Cape Town International Airport the previous year and had met with immigration officials. It had then sent a list of specific problems that existed at the airport to the Department in order for them to be addressed. The Committee felt that these specific issues were not addressed in detail by the briefing. The National Immigration Branch had merely touched on broader issues affecting both airports.
The Committee was largely concerned over the lack of staff capacity that still prevailed at Cape Town International Airport as well as the outstanding salary and overtime payments that still seemed to exist. It also wished to know if the Department had dealt with the issues of corruption, transport problems and racism at the airport. The Committee also wished to know if the airport as well as the other airports would be ready for the Football World Cup in 2010. It requested that the Branch meet with the Committee at a later stage in order to address these specific issues in greater detail. This could be done at the Budget meeting with the Department in May. The Branch was also asked to attend meetings in the future between the Committee and immigration officials at the airports so that issues that arose could be dealt with immediately.
The Chairperson highlighted that the Committee had just returned from the local elections. It was important that the Committee reflected on these elections and how the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) had operated. A meeting had been held in Pretoria with the IEC before the elections and it was clear that it had put all the necessary machinery in place. This had led to a wonderful outcome namely, free and fair elections.
The Committee had also invited the Auditor-General to meet with it in order to discuss issues relating to auditing. The Department had not yet tabled its report and it was already the beginning of the next financial year. The Auditor-General and the Department needed to address this auditing problem as no progress could really take place without this report. This Committee was the first Portfolio Committee to invite the Auditor-General to meet with it.
It was also important that the Committee outline its programme for the quarter. It hoped to do oversight work and ensure that the Department does the work it was required to do especially with regard to service delivery. The issues of Information Technology (IT) and immigration, especially ports of entry, were extremely important.
The Committee had met with immigration officers at Cape Town International Airport (CTIA) in May 2005 and had submitted a list of problems and grievances to the Department so that they could be addressed. The Chairperson hoped that these would be visited in the briefing.
Department of Home Affairs presentation
Ms L Makola (Acting Deputy Director General: National Immigration Branch) introduced the task team the Minister had created to sort out the problems experienced at the ports of entry. Some of these problems had been solved but mainly short-term solutions had been put in place. The task team would be grateful if the Committee allowed it to exercise the powers it had been given by the Minister to ensure the proper development of the ports of entry.
The task team was integrated as it consisted of a number of sections in the Department namely labour relations, management services, finance, human resources and the Ministry. The team was also a support to the National Immigration Branch of the Department.
A number of problems had been identified at CTIA and Johannesburg International Airport (JIA). These were regarding salaries, late payments and overtime, low staff morale, recruitment polices, transformation and equity and racism. Additional problems that were identified were related to communication with management and staff, training, drivers licence assistance, restructuring of rosters, stressful workload, appointment of contract workers and the transportation of immigration officers. The progress the Department had made in all these spheres were then discussed in detail.
Five recommendations were also made by the task team and the National Immigration Branch in order to improve the current situation at airports. Firstly, the personnel establishment of both airports should be fully capacitated to ensure proper management. Secondly, the Department needed to look at the possibility of increasing the middle management structure of both airports. Thirdly, a manageable roster system needed to be redeveloped. Fourthly, the structure of both JIA and CTIA had to be reviewed with regards to passenger growth rate. Lastly, the Department needed to ensure compliance with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.
The Chairperson felt that the briefing had generally spoke of the problems affecting the ports of entry around the country. He requested that the task team discuss the specific issues that had been identified by the Committee after visiting CTIA and how they have been dealt with since May.
Ms Makola replied that there had been a change in management at CTIA. There had been a great deal of interaction between this management, staff and the task team and this had lead to extensive improvements.
The Chairperson asked how many immigration officers worked at CTIA and whether the task team had met with these immigration officers.
Ms Makola replied that around 67 immigration officers worked there and ten extra immigration officers had been deployed on 27 February 2006. The Department had also requested immigration officers from other regions such as the North-West Province to capacitate airports during peak periods. The task team had also met with these officers after the Committee had visited CTIA and had discussed some of the problems with them.
The Chairperson enquired whether this meeting had been recorded and if so could the minutes be forwarded to the Committee?
Ms Makola answered that it had been recorded and that it would be forwarded to the Committee.
Mr F Beukman (ANC) stated that an overriding issue existed which was the training of immigration officers. After the events of 9/11 the curricula for the training of immigration officers had changed around the world. What did the training of South African immigration officers entail and was it affiliated to or registered at any higher institutions? Did the Department use international standards in its training programmes?
Ms P Mazomba (Director: Human Resources) responded that the training course was a year in length and incorporated both theoretical and practical courses. Immigration officers therefore received hands-on experience. They were taught specific immigration related skills such as the Immigration Act and then also more general skills such as computer training and customer service training. The Department had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) in order to develop a set of standards for this training so that these courses could then be nationally accredited. The Department had also signed a number of memorandums of understanding (MoU) with stakeholders such as the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) where international standards were integrated especially in the areas of drug trafficking.
Ms S Kalyan (DA) stated that although the Department was awaiting accreditation it still offered training. What measures were therefore being used to measure the efficacy of the programme? What had been used to draw up the training programme and were there any international benchmarks against which it was measured? As the training programmes were not accredited, what type of certification did the immigration officials receive once they had completed the course?
Ms Mazomba answered that the Department had applied for donor funding from the IOM and had appointed a consultant with this money. This consultant had been required to develop standards against which the training could be aligned in terms of SAQA and then registered. Once this had been done the training courses could then be accredited. The Department also wished to extend the training programme to three years and aimed for it then to achieve the same recognition as a national diploma or a three-year degree.
The Chairperson enquired how many immigration officers were currently being trained.
Ms Mazomba replied that 120 immigration officials had been trained during the previous year and 62 were currently being trained. They had started in October 2005.
The Chairperson asked from what areas these trainees came from. The training also meant the airports were short-staffed as people were away from their jobs as they were completing training courses. How was the Department trying close this gap as it was critical that the ports of entry have a full complement of staff at all times?
Ms Makola replied that when the Minister had put a moratorium on training this problem had not really been addressed. However, there had been progress on this matter since then and all new recruits who came on board were no longer assigned to a specific area. They could therefore be deployed anywhere and this deployment could be done according to the needs and the demographics of the areas. The Department had also developed a cycle where one group would complete the theoretical training while another group completed the practical training at the airports at the same time. This ensured that there was always staff members deployed at the airports.
Ms Maboza added that training the immigration officials at the ports of entry had led to a problem of poor services delivery. Officials were therefore theoretically trained in one specific area such as administration and then immediately completed the practical course on this subject afterwards. This meant that officials were being continuously sent to the ports of entry. During peak periods all immigration officials were also sent to all the ports of entry.
The Chairperson wished to know how many of these trained immigration officers had been deployed at CTIA.
Ms Maboza answered that 16 of these officers had been sent to complete their training at CTIA. The Chief of Immigration Services at the airports had also been trained and had then been sent back to their airports to train their own staff. Trainers had then visited these airports to ensure that the training that was being given by the Chiefs of Immigration Services was aligned with the national training course.
Mr W Skhosana (ANC) requested the breakdown of immigration officials who have been trained by province. Have all the provinces been covered by this training? He also wished to have more clarification on the 79 supervisory positions that had been advertised by the Department. Did the Department require that those applying should already be qualified or would they also go through training? If they had to be already qualified, what qualifications were required?
Ms Maboza answered that the immigration officials represented all the provinces. However, she did not have the specific breakdown percentages with her. The Department had aimed to appoint the supervisory positions through internal promotions. However, some outside people would also be appointed. A decision had also been taken that no one would be sent to the ports of entry without prior training. She did not have the specifics of the management training programme with her.
The Chairperson felt that Ms Maboza should have this information with her at the meeting. It was unfair to expect Parliament to accept the Department’s Budget without all this information not being made available to the Committee.
Mr M Sibande (ANC) commented that most of the issues that had been brought up so far had been linked to the issue of training. He also had a problem with training. In its recommendations the Department recommended that both airports be fully capacitated. However, the Department had also begun training officials which meant it was supposedly addressing the problem. He therefore felt that these two points contradicted each other as the Department should not be recommending this if they were supposedly taking action to address the problem. The recommendation also did not indicate by when the Department wished to have this full capacity.
His second question was regarding the Department’s aim to increase middle management at airports. How could this aim be achieved if airports were not capacitated?
Mr J Mamabola (Ministry: Chief of Staff) replied that he needed to clarify that although the Chairperson wished to speak about CTIA only and the issues the Committee had raised, these issues were closely related to those of JIA. The Minister had also appointed the task team to deal with both airports.
Most of the issues that had been raised by the Committee were linked to the issue of capacity. The Minister had visited JIA three times since 27 February and had noticed that no proper management was in place, only immigration officers at lower levels. This poor management lead to many of the problems that existed and if this capacity were developed it would lead to a number of solutions. The task team was therefore in the process of deploying more people at the directorate level of airports. It was currently debating whether one or two directors should be deployed and in the meantime had deployed two interim deputy-directors at these airports.
The Chairperson stated that although this gave the Committee a picture of how the Department wished to deal with some of the problems it did not explain how the Department had dealt with the specific issues that had been raised by the Committee after its visit to CTIA in May 2005.
Mr Mamabola stated that if the Committee went back to the issues it had raised it could be seen that many of them were linked to what had already been discussed in the meeting. For example, the salary problems of immigration officials had been discussed by Ms Makola in her briefing. The task team had requested that these outstanding payments be resolved and it would receive a report on this matter by the end of the week. The task team was in a position to go through all the issues that had been raised by the Committee and show the progress that had been made.
Mr S Huang (ANC) wished to know what the full capacity was that was needed at the airports for them to run optimally. Was standard capacity needed across all airports or did it differ? He also had a query regarding the problem of late payments. Parliament had supplied the Department with a budget and he therefore did not understand why the problems of late payment and overtime payments existed.
The Chairperson asked how long it would take to process people who have landed in South Africa if the airport was running at optimum capacity. A number of complaints had been received by the Committee with regards to people waiting for long periods to be processed at the immigration terminals.
Ms Makola responded that the task team had worked together with the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) to ensure that things began running smoothly at airports and that flights did not land at the same time in the same areas. An ACSA roster system had already been implemented at CTIA. This roster deployed immigration officials according to the increase and decrease of flights at the airport. This roster could plan the flights that were landing for the upcoming month and then deploy the correct number of officials according to these flights. This roster was also going to be implemented at JIA in the future. The task team was working on a number of systems including the roster to ensure that it would be utilised fully.
With regards to the capacity of the ports of entry, 1800 vacant posts existed nationally. 423 funded posts had been advertised in recent months and training programmes for these posts had also been set up as well as a proper system on how these posts would be filled. The Chief Financial Officer would then cost the remaining vacant posts so that they could be recognised as critical posts that needed to be filled. In the past posts had not been advertised but this was not the fault of the Department but due to discrepancies between the Head Office and the regional and area managers. However, the Director General had now taken control of the situation and it should therefore run better in the future as there would now be a positive change in the capacitating of ports of entries.
Mr Huang asked how the Department planned to distribute the 1800 posts between the various airports. What was the current capacity of the immigration officials at the airports and what capacity was actually needed?
Mr Mamabola responded that 192 immigration officials were needed at JIA in order for it to run at full capacity. The airport’s departures side had 24 workstations which meant 24 immigration officers could work during peak periods. It was important to ensure that all the workstations were manned during this period and it they were there were no real problems. However, the problem lay with the arrivals section. There were 42 workstations in arrivals that were equipped with computers and an extra 16 that were not. During peak hours these 58 workstations would be needed in order for the airport to run at full capacity. It was important that the ACSA roster system also be implemented to ensure that the 192 immigration officials were used effectively.
Another vital change that needed to take place was that the peak periods at airports needed to be changed. At the moment this period was between six o’clock and ten o’clock in the morning. This was unrealistic as flights were often delayed and a number of other factors meant that peak periods could not be fixed. The ACSA roster system allowed for flights to be planned for three months in advance and immigration officials could therefore be deployed according to this roster. These issues were once again related to the shortage of managers at the airports. Managers needed to be appointed in order to implement the roster and deploy immigration officers.
Regarding CTIA, the task team had met with the management of CTIA on 3 March and had asked them what capacity was needed in order for CTIA to run efficiently. The management had replied that an extra 16 immigration officers were needed.
The Chairperson asked if the roster system was a new or an old system and if it had been in place when the Committee had visited CTIA during the previous year.
Ms Makola replied that the system had been established after the Committee visit. ACSA had been requested by the Department to install this roster system on one of the supervisory computers and had done so recently.
The Chairperson asked if a management committee for the ports of entries existed as it was required by immigration law. How did the Department coordinate the ports of entry and interact with all the stakeholders involved?
Ms Makola replied that the task team had been addressing short-term issues. However, a Border Control Co-ordination Committee (BCOCC) strategic planning session was currently being held to work out a strategic plan for the period up to 2010. This interaction with other stakeholders would produce inputs and strategies that would then be implemented at all the ports of entry.
Mr Mamabola added that the Minister had also requested that the task team meet with the Ministers of the Cabinet Committee that controlled the airports in order to discuss a number of important issues so that they could be addressed.
Mr Beukman wished to know if the task team was planning to look at international precedents and practice models of other airports before 2010 as the current model in place would not suffice.
Mr Sibande commented that one of the main concerns of the Committee was that the systems at the various ports of entry did not seem to interact effectively. The meeting with the Ministers of the Cabinet Committee was therefore extremely important. However, he also wished to know if these airports would really be ready by 2010 as communication did not exist between them.
Ms Makola answered that the Minister had given the go-ahead to the task team to benchmark other systems. The team had already looked at a number of models from around the world. The BCOCC was made up of different sections and areas that looked at specific problems. The development section was investigating the lack of interaction between the various systems. The BCOCC also had an integration system where information from all the different areas would be integrated. From the Department’s side, an information and integration centre was also being built where all the ports of entry would able to report on any matters of importance. IT was also working on a system which would enable the ports of entry to communicate with one another. A long-term programme was also needed where all systems would be upgraded and those abusing the system would be removed.
Mr Mamabola added that the solutions that had been put in place might be short-term but they were laying a basis for 2010. The Department did not wish to implement interventions at airports that were not linked to a broader strategy. Therefore a specific mandate had been created that was linked to broader trends.
Mr Huang asked if the ACSA system would sort out all the problems that were experienced at CTIA.
Ms Makola answered that the ACSA system would not sort out all these problems. The system of the Department also needed to be revamped in order to enhance the ACSA system so that people arriving at the airport would be processed as fast as possible. The task team was in the process of undertaking this system development.
The ACSA system was also going to be implemented at JIA. However, it was important to identify how many flights were landing at this airport as well as where they were landing. These factors needed to be addressed in order for the entire system to work effectively. It would be wrong to just rely on the roster system to work everything out.
The Chairperson enquired why the BCOCC needed to meet to discuss these issues if people were meeting everyday on lower levels to discuss government policies.
Ms Makola replied that the BCOCC also wished to look into a number of issues and was therefore holding this strategic planning over the next two days.
The Chairperson asked if the task team had a BCOCC meeting schedule and who chaired these BCOCC meetings.
Ms Makola replied that the Department chaired the meeting, more specifically the Chief of Immigration Services. A schedule of the BCOCC meetings was available and she would forward it to the Committee.
Mr K Morwamoche (ANC) highlighted that the Committee had submitted a number of reports to the Department. Government policies were of a high standard; however the implementation of these policies was failing. When was the Department going to begin to effectively implement these policies?
Mr Mamabola responded that the Department was dedicated to furthering and implementing Government policy. It was important that the Minister as the executive authority ensures that this occurs. He reiterated that the Department’s programmes derived from the ANC Government’s policies.
The Chairperson asked if the task team had met with the immigration officers at CTIA and had dealt with the issues that had been raised by the Committee. What had the Department been doing to address the 19 specific issues that had been raised by the Committee in May 2005.
Mr Sibande stated that one of the important issues that had been raised by the immigration officers was the smuggling of illegal goods through CTIA. What was the Department doing about this situation? The immigration officials were frustrated as they felt that smugglers were not being properly punished once they were caught.
The Chairperson stated that all the ports of entry needed a proper management committee. The Committee had found that the management committee at these airports did not really exist. However this was critical. Although stakeholders like the South African Revenue Service and the Departments of Safety and Security and Intelligence played an important role at airports, the Department played the central role. It was therefore extremely important that these management committees met in order to discuss the problems that needed to be solved. The Committee would be interested in sending representatives to these meetings in order to determine what progress the Department was making.
Ms Makola highlighted that the Department had given letters of appointment in order for management committees to be formed in the last two months.
The Chairperson congratulated the Department on this. However, he once again requested that the task team address the specific issues that had been raised by the Committee.
Mr Mamabola addressed these specific issues. He pointed out that many of the issues raised by the Committee were interlinked. The reconstruction of the rosters had already been discussed in detail. With regards to the challenge of transport, two combis had been issued to address this problem, as the previous combi had been stolen. Many of the immigrations officials also had their own cars. However, they needed transport allowances. The task team had taken into account that these travel allowances would affect the trade unions. It had therefore met with the trade unions and the issue was therefore being attended to.
Late salaries and overtime payments were a second issue that had been raised by the Committee. The task team had instructed Human Resources to report on all outstanding payments. Some money might therefore still be outstanding but the issue was being attended to. It was important to highlight the fact that some of the outstanding payments had been made at CTIA and JIA. However, it had not been resolved one hundred percent and there was no real excuse why it had not.
The Chairperson enquired whether a system existed which would monitor the payment of overtime to airport staff.
Ms Makola replied that managers of the ports of entry were expected to forward overtime schedules immediately to Human Resources so that it could then make the necessary payments. However, there had been a number of discrepancies. This had led the Director General to instruct that overtime be paid in the same month. It was therefore important that proper communication existed between the managers of ports of entry and Human Resources.
Mr R Ndema (Provincial Manager for Gauteng West) added that the Department’s budget had included an amount for overtime. However, capacity demands meant that people from the outside had been brought in and the overtime budget had been used to pay their salaries. This meant that the budget had been exhausted by December 2005 and there had been no money for the final three months of the financial year. The Department had therefore had to apply for more funds and this had lead to overtime payment delays.
The Chairperson asked if this meant that the overtime issues at CTIA had therefore not been resolved.
Ms Makola answered that the National Immigration Branch of the Department had received the needed funds and had paid them over to CTIA in order to make the payments.
Mr Mamabola stated that the issues of transformation and racism were interlinked. The task team had however been informed at its meeting with the management at CTIA that the appointment of new personnel had been transferred to the provincial managers. This would put an end to the favouritism that had occurred during these appointments. However, a mechanism still needed to be created to deal with general racism that was not linked to employment.
The issue of contract workers at CTIA had also been addressed. Nine trainees had been deployed on a short-term basis at CTIA. However, they would be permanently employed once their training had been completed. This was therefore a short-term plan to deal with these capacity issues. The task team had also been informed that management at CTIA had up to now not had a chance to assess the impact these nine trainees had made at the airport. However, they are mentoring and assisting these trainees to integrate them into the system and this impact would obviously be felt at a later stage.
The issue of staff not taking leave for long periods of time had also been addressed. The increase in staff capacity at CTIA had allowed staff members to take leave on a more regular basis.
The Chairperson pointed out that the Department had the highest number of staff taking sick leave of all Government Departments. It was obvious that this would affect CTIA.
Ms Mazomba replied that a structure had been established in the Department that dealt with employee wellness. This structure included the conducting of leave auditing in order to determine why this high rate of sick leave existed so that it could then be dealt with.
The Chairperson stated that the issue of sick leave could be addressed at the upcoming Budget meeting with the Department.
Mr Mamabola further added that many of the other issues that had been raised by the Committee were more long term in nature. However, he was satisfied in general with how all these issues had been dealt with and that many of the outstanding issues would be dealt with over a longer period.
The Chairperson asked if the issues surrounding the harbours had been dealt with as only airports had been focused on so far.
Ms Makola answered that meetings had been held with staff at the harbours and had been conducted by the Deputy Director General. A number of problems had been raised at this meeting. The Department had addressed some of these issues including the computerisation of all harbours. This process was ongoing.
The Chairperson wished to know if the task team had information on these meetings with the harbours including the issues that were raised. He had visited a number of harbours and had seen firsthand the problems that existed. If it did not have this information at the current meeting he suggested that the task team should return to the issue and then give a detailed plan regarding all the harbours at the upcoming budget meeting. He also suggested that the Committee visit the Cape Town harbour before the end of the current week.
Mr Sibande requested that the task team send statistics on the number of people at airports and harbours who were paid salaries by the Department as well as the figures regarding outstanding payments. He was concerned about the fact that one of the combis supplied by the Department had been stolen. Had the Department not taken any measures to prevent this theft such as installing tracker systems in the vehicles? It was unfair to expect Parliament to merely distribute more funds when vehicles were stolen.
Mr Skosana enquired whether the Department had identified if the kind of racism that existed at CTIA occurred at a particular level. The Committee had noticed that the type of racism that occurred was extremely problematic as it held the operation of the airport at ransom at a particular level. It was obviously much easier to deal with issues that occurred at lower levels. When the immigration office was launched in Cape Town there had been a number of Smart vehicles supplied by the Department. Now there only seemed to be two combis available. What progress had the Department made with regards to supplying the immigration officials with proper vehicles that were needed to do their work?
Mr Huang asked what percentage of payments was still outstanding since May 2005. Secondly what percentage of staff working at the airports were still on contract instead of being employed permanently? The Department aimed to assist immigration officials in obtaining their driver’s licences. Why did this assistance have to be given if the Department provided these workers with transport?
Ms Makola responded that the outstanding percentage of payments would be forwarded to the Committee.
Mr Huang replied that the Department should have these percentages at the meeting. What was the percentage of permanent and contract posts at the airports?
Ms Makola responded that there were no more contract positions in the Department.
Mr Mamabola added that the task team had also requested a clearer view of the issue of outstanding payments. The team hoped to get this soon in order to identify if there was enough of a budget to make these outstanding payments. The task team would send these statistics to the Chairperson as soon as it had received them.
The Chairperson responded that often immigration officials had to be at work in the early hours of the morning and no public transport was therefore available. These officials did not have cars and they therefore required transport which was provided by the Department. He also wished to know if there had been progress on the creation of new immigration official uniforms by the Department. Immigration officials usually changed into civilian clothing before going home as they were afraid of being victimised if they were identified as immigration officials. The Department and the Committee needed to work together in order to address this serious problem.
Ms Makola added that it was now a requirement that immigration officials have their driver’s licences. This was because officials were no longer stationed at an office but were required to work in all the fields of immigration which included conducting enquiries and investigations.
The Smart vehicles were used for this purpose while the combis were used to transport officials to and from the airports. The Department was now looking to employ drivers who continuously stood by to transport officials to and from the airports. The two new combis that had been supplied to CTIA had tracker systems installed.
The Chairperson wished to know how the Department was dealing with the low morale that existed amongst the airport staff. This low morale often led to unnecessary sick leave which was obviously affecting the operation of CTIA negatively.
Mr Mamabola replied that according to the Auditor General’s Report the high levels of sick leave that had occurred in the Department was for 2001. However, the media had only reported it recently. The reason for these high levels was also because of mistakes being made during sick leave data capturing. This problem had been addressed. However, he was not sure how various factors such as HIV/AIDS had affected recent sick leave levels.
Some of the reasons for the low morale of airport workers were because of low salary levels and the lack of promotions. To increase this morale the task team needed to deal with the structure of airports within the broader framework of the Immigration Branch. Morale could be raised if there was an increase in both salary levels and promotions.
The Department had also formed a partnership with the Board of South African Airline Representatives which would provide customer care training to all the airports. A number of stakeholders had therefore come on board to assist the Department. Progress had also been made regarding the distribution of computers at airports. Over a period of two weeks all the old computers had been replaced at JIA. However, it was important to note that the situation would not change immediately. Remnants of the past would remain for quite a while. The Department needed time to achieve its short-term and medium-term goals.
The Chairperson asked if the task team was dealing with the issue of corruption at airports as well as the use of cellphones by immigration officials. The Committee had seen a number of immigration officials speaking on their cellphones while processing people who were arriving in the country. These officials could have been working with syndicates.
Mr Ndema replied that no cellphones were allowed at the terminals according to ACSA standards. However, security standards had slipped and ACSA no longer seemed to be enforcing these rules strictly. It was therefore the responsibility of the Department to enforce these rules. Only a supervisory manager should be allowed to use a cellphone at the immigration terminals. Once again lack of management at these terminals had lead to this enforcement not taking place.
From April 2005 to the end of February 2006 the Department had dismissed 21 immigration officials on corruption charges. These dismissals were extremely high in such a short space of time and showed that the Department was trying to address the issue.
The Chairperson pointed out that these dismissals increased the number of vacancies that existed at airports. How quickly was the Department filling the posts in order to close the gap that was being created by these dismissals?
Ms Mazomba acknowledged that there had been a delay from the side of Human Resources in filling these positions. However, these level six and level seven positions, which were immigration officials at a supervisory level, had been advertised two weeks ago. There had been a delay as the dismissed officials had been given the opportunity to appeal. The appointment process had been speeded up and the closing date for applications was the end of March. It would then take Human Resources two weeks to process the applications and this section had been made aware of the urgency of the situation.
Ms Maloka added that the Director General had also instituted a system that when counter-corruption dismissed corrupt officials a sms was sent to management so that a process of filling these vacancies could begin immediately. The Department would try to capacitate these areas as a matter of urgency in order to close the gaps that had been created. Something is therefore being done in this regard.
The Chairperson asked if the immigration officials’ uniforms were taken away from them once they had been dismissed so that they could not pose as officials. What was the procedure that was followed when officials were dismissed?
Ms Maloka responded that the task team was creating a new dismissal policy with Human Resources on what should be done when officials were dismissed. Counter-corruption would also be consulted in order to hear from them what needed to be taken away from these officials. This was one of the processes that had been requested by the Director General to be put into place and formed part of the process of changing the immigration officials’ uniforms. This new policy would therefore come into effect when the Department introduced the new uniforms.
Mr Huang enquired if those who were dismissed were criminally charged.
Ms Maloka answered that if the official was dismissed merely because of constantly arriving late at work, no charges were brought against him. However, if the official was dismissed due to criminal actions, he / she would also be criminally charged. The Department’s dismissal ran in conjunction with the process of criminally charging the official and making him / her appear in court.
The Chairperson enquired how long it took to process visitors due to the capacity problem created by these dismissals. It was definitely important to deal with corruption especially at a management level. However, it should also not impact on the capacity of the airports to such a great extent.
Mr Mamabola answered that if all the immigration stations were manned the processing of visitors should take less than two minutes. This process was speeded up even further if queue marshals were also present to control queues.
The Chairperson wished to know if there were supervisory personnel that monitored the immigration officers as this would aid security measures.
Mr Mamabola responded that part of the task team’s agenda was to install security cameras in order to keep an eye on the immigration officials. The Minister has requested that ACSA install these security cameras. If this did not occur the Department then had to source the capacity to provide security supervision over these officials. A supervisory manager needed to be deployed at the immigration stations so he could keep an eye on the officials as well as redirect queues if it was needed. However, cameras would effectively be able to monitor the length of queues so that officials could then be deployed it needed. Once again this was basically a management issue and would be dealt with in an upcoming meeting.
The Chairperson concluded that he appreciated the response of the Department on the issues that had been raised by the Committee. However, he was still not satisfied that all the issues had been resolved. However, he did acknowledge that there had been a number of changes in the Department including the Deputy Director resigning which had obviously interrupted the Department’s work.
Many of the challenges that the Department faced were interrelated. For example, meetings with staff at Durban’s airport and harbour had shown that similar problems seemed to exist. It was clear that the Department and the Committee needed to communicate directly and reports of Committee visits to the various airports and harbours needed to be directed to the Department as this had not been occurring on a regular basis.
However, many of these issues could be discussed in greater detail at the upcoming Budget meeting with the Department in May which the National Immigration Branch (NIB) would also attend.
It was obvious that the most important issue was the development of resources in order to capacitate all the ports of entry at airports and harbours. He was also concerned with the fact that no real progress seemed to have been made on changing immigration official uniforms, although the Committee had highlighted this issue in May 2005. It was important to holistically approach all these issues in order to see how the NIB was planning to solve all the problems.
It was also important that the task team looked more closely at the ports of entry in order to identify problems at the ground level. One of the tasks of the Committee was to interact with immigration officials at the airports and it invited a delegation from the National Immigration Branch to attend these meetings so that issues that arose could be dealt with straightaway in the future.
The meeting was adjourned.