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HOME AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
26 May 2006
DEPARTMENT ANNUAL REPORT 2004/05, BUDGET AND STRATEGIC PLAN 2006/7 AND 2008/9
XENOPHOBIA ATTACK IN PLETTENBERG BAY: REPORT BY WESTERN CAPE MEC FOR SAFETY AND SECURITY
Chairperson: Mr H P Chauke
Documents handed out:
Department of Home Affairs Annual Report 2004/05 (available at www.home-affairs.gov.za/)
Department of Home Affairs PowerPoint presentation on Annual Report 2004/05
Department of Home Affairs Budget Performance
Department of Home Affairs Strategic Plan 2004/05
Minister’s speech to the Committee
The Chair expressed his extreme disquiet about the manner in which the Department of Home Affairs had dealt with the Annual Report for 2004/05. The report should have been submitted in September 2005. The Department, after a meeting in March 2006 with the Auditor General, had given an undertaking to work with each other, and the report was promised within five days. It had finally been received last week, and the Strategic Plan three days ago. Committee Members commented that they had been inconvenienced and disadvantaged by this delay.
The Minister of Home Affairs addressed the Committee on the reasons why the Department of Home Affairs had been unable to submit their Annual Report for 2004/05 until now, and the reasons why the Office of the Auditor-General had issued a disclaimer in respect of the report. She described some of the key interventions that the Department had now undertaken and the additional funding requested. Challenges to performance included inadequate numbers and ability of staff at many levels, poor infrastructure, service delivery models which required serious remodelling, corruption, the inadequate ID and immigration systems. She described her view of the Auditor-General’s report and the steps she had taken. She agreed that these problems had been an indictment on the Department. She appealed to the Committee to nonetheless give full consideration to the Budget.
The Director General of the Department of Home Affairs presented a report, on the strategic plan and results for 2004/5, but not on the budget. He described the activities of each of the programmes in Administration, Civic Services, Migration, and the refugee offices, and indicated the numbers of permits processed, and the main thrust of the sub-programmes. Numerous questions were raised by members, in the broad categories of permanent residence applications, ID documents and smart cards, the refugee card system, policies on whistle-blowing and counter-corruption, and illegal marriages and citizenship. Backlogs were highlighted by several members, who expressed their concern that the Department was seemingly not able to give exact figures, nor assure them that the problem had been cured. The IT systems were explained and several questions were posed concerning smart cards, new systems, and the track and trace system. Capacity problems, and the service rendered by staff, the system of evaluations and performance contracts were raised. The Committee requested that further written reports be submitted to them.
The Committee agreed that the financial reports would be presented on Monday 29 June, and requested that the Auditor General also be present to interact with the Committee.
The MEC for Safety and Security of the Western Cape addressed the meeting on the recent situation in Plettenberg Bay, when a number of locals had attacked other foreign residents. One Mozambique citizen had died and about 40 people were arrested. The MEC reported that a pattern seemed to be emerging that South Africans were resentful of foreigners, whom they perceived as taking houses, jobs and wives, to the detriment of local South Africans. The incidents were sparked by a battle for resources. The MEC had held meetings with the Association of Refugees. The police and the Mayor had played an active role and helped to diffuse the situation, and officials from Home Affairs had also assisted. The problem required a multi-disciplinary approach and education programmes would be key to preventing re-occurrences of these problems. The Department's Provincial Manager for Western Cape reported on steps taken by her department. The Chairman stated that the Portfolio Committee would engage with other committees on this issue.
Presentation by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) on the Annual Report 2004/05
The Chairperson stated that the Annual Report was supposed to have been tabled in Parliament during September 2005. The Committee had already begun its hearings on the Department's budget for the coming year. The fact that the previous year's report had not been received signalled that there was a problem. A meeting was held on 14 March 2006 so that the Auditor General could explain the problems in conducting the audit, and the DHA indicated that there had been a serious misunderstanding on the structure of the audit plan. The Auditor-General reported that certain documents were required, but DHA was unable to produce them. It was agreed that the two needed to work together, and DHA assured the Committee that the report would be ready within five days. There had also been problems with the reports from the Government Printing Works and the Film and Publications Board, who fell under DHA, and who had failed to send senior officials to report to the Committee. DHA’s report had finally arrived last week – two months after it had been promised, whilst the Strategic Plan had been received three days ago. The Chair expressed his extreme disquiet about the manner in which the matter had been dealt with, and the inconvenience caused to the entire Committee, who were being asked to adopt the report today. Other members echoed the Chairperson’s sentiments, and requested that this should not be permitted to happen again.
Mr M Swart (DA) believed that the Committee could not adopt the financial report that day but should consider its adoption on the following Monday, to give proper time for consideration.
The Chairperson and members expressed thanks to the Minister of Home Affairs, the Hon. N Mapisa-Nqakula, for attending the meeting despite her illness. The Chairperson commented that the initiatives taken by the Minister, her dedication to and her driving of developments such as the mobile units had been significant.
Address by the Hon. Minister of Home Affairs, on the Annual Report 2004/05
The Minister, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, thanked the Committee for convening at short notice to consider the Report and budget before its presentation to the National Assembly. She thanked the Committee for its understanding and patience in allowing the Department to resolve the issues in the Report. She reported that DHA and the Auditor-General had gone through a lengthy process to finalise the matter.
The past year had been extremely challenging, involving implementation of programmes following the establishment of a framework that would allow DHA to fulfil its mandate. Key achievements had been made, but the process had also established some weaknesses that would need to be addressed. The budget therefore sought to deploy additional resources to the weak areas. The budget had been aligned to the strategic plan and was aimed at improving delivery levels to the public.
It had become clear that there were inadequate levels of human resources across DHA. Over the past two years DHA had invested substantial funds in the establishment and staffing of Head Office and Provincial offices. Although funding had been approved up to 2009 there was still a need to make provision for capacity that was not included in the original investigations. Therefore DHA had requested additional capacity funding of R134 million for 2006/7, R215 million for 2007/8 and R369.5 million for 2008/9. DHA had filled as many posts as possible. Although the applicants had a sound academic background, DHA still struggled to find those with the quality and proven ability to perform the work. Last year DHA had appointed five Deputy Director Generals to top management, to ensure that service was delivered. The Minister would leave it to the Committee to judge whether their attempts at service delivery had been successful.
The infrastructure of the Government Printing Works (GPW) had been enhanced to improve accessibility. A study had been commissioned from CSIR to ensure that the new structures were rolled out in appropriate places, identified by density of population, ease of access, and support to rural and urban development. The infrastructure of GPW had also been addressed to allow for its conversion to a state-owned enterprise. The additional amounts requested were R212.6 million for 2006/7, R122.6 million for 2007/8 and R82.6 million for 2008/9.
ID document systems were now at an advanced stage. The conversion of 40 million fingerprints was targeted for completion in September 2006, but should be completed before that date. Cabinet was still debating the procurement model for the Smart ID cards. Plans had been made for the rollout, but DHA was awaiting the final approval; there had been some controversy which had delayed the process. Additional funds requested were R384.1 million in 2006/7, R96.1 million in 2007/8 and nil for 2008/9, as funds had been rolled over before for this programme.
The Service Delivery Improvement Model was aimed at services at provincial level, and it was vital that additional funds be allocated for mobile units, and for implementation of the recommendations of the civic services survey by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), which had identified the areas requiring intervention and the gaps in service. Queue management, ID management strategies, the rights of clients and other issues were covered under this model. Amounts of R115.8 million had been requested for 2006/7, R97.16 million for 2007/8 and R99.2 million for 2008/9.
DHA, by the nature of its work, was vulnerable to syndicates and corrupt elements. The drive to root out corruption was urgent and therefore R26.8 million had been requested for 2006/7, R27.8 million for 2007/8 and R34.9 million for 2008/9. However, there were serious capacity problems because of the centralised structure.
Immigration services had been affected by the Immigration Amendment Act of 2004, which required additional resources. Key programmes supported the Border Control Committee (BCC), a multi-disciplinary structure, improved infrastructure at ports of entry, and future planning to support the expected influx in 2009/2010. Additional funding requested was R62.4 million for 20067, R59.5 million for 2007/8 and R2.4 million for 2008/9.
Civic services affected all South Africans. A lesser amount had been requested since all other programmes supported Civic Services, and therefore additional funding requested was R10.1 million.
A more detailed explanation on these figures and on amounts allocated would be given in the presentation on the budgets.
The Minister stated that she had instituted a process to deal with the Auditor-General’s report when she had been told, at the beginning of the year, that the DHA report had not been completed. The Auditor General had been frank about the nature of the problems, and the Director General (DG) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of DHA had informed the Minister that the problems had been resolved, and that a meeting had been held with Mr Randall of the Auditor-General. Nobody had expected the Auditor General to issue a disclaimer report. When that was received the Minister and DG again met with the Auditor General, who explained all issues leading to the disclaimer report. The Minister, in comparing the 2003/4 and 2004/5 output, had thought that there was improvement because reduction of figures in the foreign account, and the figures for aliens, had been resolved. The Auditor General confirmed that although these areas had improved, others were clearly at fault.
The Auditor General and DHA had been at odds over documentation which the Auditor General stated he was unable to get from DHA. The Minister shared her views on the possible reasons for this. At the time when the audit was being conducted there was a forensic investigation running in DHA, since it had been alerted of problems. The first possibility was that documents may have been handed to the Auditor General. The Auditor General maintained that his office always signed for any documents. DHA had been unable to show the Minister any signatures. The second possibility arose from a change of companies on site, as there were finally three companies involved in the audit, so it was possible that one of the companies leaving the site may have lost or taken documents. However, the Auditor General stated that even if this were the case, the other two companies would have signed for documents removed from site. No signatures were produced by DHA. Thirdly, it was possible that in view of the forensic audit, certain people -at senior or junior levels -may have removed or destroyed documents that might have implicated them. Fourthly, there had been a move, due to a crisis situation in accommodation, from one building to another. The Minister had heard that some documents were still warehoused and it was possible that this might include the documents sought.
These were merely possible scenarios and there was no certainty on what had happened. She had, however, interacted with the Auditor General and it was clear that the inability to produce the documents formed the crux of the disclaimer. She had accepted the opinion, and there was no point in being defensive. The Minister and DHA would learn from their mistakes and use them as valuable lessons to avoid problems in future. A study of the reports, as well as reports from the internal committees, had shown that there were some serious problems. The internal audit team should also have picked up and reported on problems, which they failed to do. The monthly expenditure reports from the internal finance divisions of DHA had not warned that anything was amiss. The Director General would now have to investigate how this lapse had occurred. The Minister appealed to members of the Committee, despite the inconvenience caused to them, to participate fully in the budget debate, as the budget was not about the DHA, but about the lives of all South Africans. She was well aware that the late report was an indictment on the Department, and accepted that the ultimate responsibility lay with her.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister for highlighting the concerns. A Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) report had already indicated that there might be problems, and there had been four years of qualified reports. This made it even more worrying that the Auditor General had issued a disclaimer, not even a qualified report, and the DHA would certainly be called upon to account for follow-up in respect of all matters.
Mr M Swart (DA) pointed out that the Committee had previously been worried about capacity and staff, but it still seemed that service delivery had not improved in line with the additional amounts allocated. Basics were not attended to, and South Africans could not be assured that documents would be protected while in the system, and returned on due date.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) commented that there was clearly a lack of internal control, and urgent intervention was required.
Ms S Kalyan (DA) believed that DHA had let the Minister down badly. She asked for a report on the findings of the forensic investigation. The Minister reported that twelve people had been suspended, and although she had not received a copy of the final report, she understood that the report was in its second phase of implementation, and that two people had been exonerated, which seemed to indicate that there had been some preliminary findings. She had asked the Auditor General about the forensic report and it possible implications, and his response had been that the situation could be worse than anticipated.
On the question of the Auditor-General’s report, Mr S Swart indicated that since SCOPA would no doubt deal with it, he believed it would be instructive for the Committee not to spend too much time at present on this issue, but rather to have a special meeting later to deal with the audit report, together with the SCOPA finding. Ms P Mabe thought it would be necessary to deal with it. The Chairperson requested that the Auditor General make himself available on Monday at 09:30 so that issues could be raised.
Ms Kalyan asked precisely why the boxed documents referred to had not yet been unpacked, as this was surely a matter to be attended to urgently. The Minister reported that she had discovered about this by a remark during a meeting on track and trace systems. She had given immediate instructions to scan in all documents, so that there should be a record in preparation for the track and trace, although it was not known exactly what documents had been warehoused.
The Chairperson commented that DHA had never mentioned to the Committee last year that there had been any problem that had occasioned the forensic audit, nor that there was a problem with loss of documents. He was very concerned that DHA had not been truly open and honest with the Committee.
Presentation by the Department of Home Affairs, on 2003/04 Annual Report
Mr Mzuvikele Jeff Maqetuka (Director General, DHA) indicated that he had been the Director General for just one year and two months so that the period covered by the report included only sixteen days under his leadership. He accepted the challenges to the Department, and fully appreciated and sympathised with the concerns of the Committee. At an administrative and operational level the accounting officers were responsible for all issues and therefore he would be accepting responsibility. He would give a detailed report on the forensic audit, including the reasons why it had not yet been submitted to the Minister. He believed it would be appropriate to deal with this when dealing with the financial issues. His report that morning would therefore not touch upon the finances.
Dr J Carneson (Chief Director, Strategic Executive Support, DHA) stated that the DHA had aligned itself with the strategic priorities of government, such as economic growth, building capacity, service delivery, social service enhancement, countering corruption, and improved global relations, and had also aligned its plans with the resources allocated. The DHA’s turnaround strategy had run in the 2004/05 year, focusing on improved systems, developing capacity, improving access and infrastructure of the DHA to deliver in the provinces.
The Administration programme handled the overall management and administration. Its objectives were to strengthen the management team, to develop relationships in the Cluster, improve internal relationships and service delivery. Achievements included a review of business processes, office expansion plans, following the CSIR study, efforts to improve Multi Purpose Community Centres (MPCCs) and campaigns to address particular problems. Human resources had been critical during this period as policies were put in place and key posts were filled, in an attempt to establish a stable system, terminate volunteers and address performance management and employee morale. 1053 vacant posts were filled, including 27 senior management posts, and a launch led to 417 interns being employed. Most training concentrated on IT at management levels. The policy on retention and succession plans was revised. There was preparation for the delegation of powers and functions to provinces. Performance agreements were prepared, using strategic objectives for service managements. Security and counter-corruption was assisted by the appointment of a Chief Director. Some of the measures taken included a review of risk management documents, vetting 640 staff members, the introduction of a biometric fingerprinting system and whistle-blowing policies.
Communications was an important area. Finance and Procurement had aimed to improve the management budgeting and other processes. DHA had moved to the Basic Accounting System (BAS) and had trained officials. Budgets were drawn not only on a historic basis but in alignment with the strategic objectives. DHA had attempted to improve poor service conditions in some offices, to mobilise volunteers, to improve the MPCCs, and, as part of an ongoing project, to improve facilities and service at border posts. A purpose built office in Khayelitsha served as a model. Head Office had moved due to a crisis in office accommodation. IT Services were moving to improve the old paper-based systems with new IT systems, including biometric devices and electronic verification. Systems development aimed at a transversal system that was fully decentralised. A tender for mobile units was put out during this period, and a contract awarded for the first 10 units. Offices were connected to networks and IT security policies and disaster recovery plans were put in place.
The second programme, Civic Services, comprised three large sub-programmes on the population register (linked to the fingerprint system), travel and passports, and citizenship. Mr Carneson tabled several data sheets showing the numbers of documents dealt with for child registration, marriages, permanent residence and citizenship. The citizenship campaign had followed the HSRC findings and DHA had increased access by establishing on-line birth and death registries in 69 hospitals. The first mobile units had been completed. The large backlog had been partially reduced, but had risen again. Longer-term projects had now been put in place, but during this period workflow had been improved, procedure manuals introduced, and revised death registration procedures commenced.
The third programme, Migration, encompassed permits and travel documents, as well as the Immigration Advisory Board, and refugee centres. Its objectives included strengthening the ports of entry, reviewing processes and countering illegal entries. There had been development in bilateral agreements with neighbouring countries. The numbers of travel documents and IDs issued to refugees was tabled. There had been about 7 million arrivals and departures during the past year through the ports of entry.
Backlog figures and procedures
Ms Kalyan asked for the backlog figure, since decentralisation, and what measures were in place to address it. She enquired whether the process was effective. Ms L Makola (Acting Deputy Director General, Immigration Branch, DHA) replied that when the Minister had given an instruction to decentralise, this was not dealt with properly. Therefore DHA had engaged a company to help with the processes, and identify the shortcomings. Interns had assisted with the incomplete files that were handed over by writing to all applicants to obtain the missing documents. There had also been some problems with NIA, whose reports needed to be expedited. DHA was looking to institute a track and trace system.
Ms L Mabe (ANC) asked for further clarity on the incomplete forms.
The Chairperson asked if this company was being paid, and whether their remuneration was reflected in the annual financial statements.
Ms Makola stated that the company was currently engaging with the internal audit team to put together a viable system. The company had in fact been brought in, by the internal auditors, to engage in other work, but had then had its mandate extended to this additional project. Mr
Refugee figures, and smart cards for refugees
Ms Kalyan noted that the figures for completed refugee and asylum applications were very low and did not appear to match the influx into the country. She asked what backlog existed in this field. Mr Maqetuka replied that in 2005 it was realised that there was a backlog in refugee applications, due to the very high numbers entering the country. Therefore DHA had initiated a special process to deal with the backlog. In the latter part of 2005 a decision was taken to build four new centres so that the processing would be removed from the mainstream DHA offices. These had been built in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth. 198 new interns were recruited, and three offices were fully operational. The backlog increased but was being addressed. Mr Maqetuka believed that the introduction of the smart card for refugees would be successful. This was in a pilot stage. There had been some problems, but the system was operational. There would be a need to move also to other areas.
Mr P Nkombule (CFO, DHA) gave the figure, as at last week, as 99 948 in the backlog.
The Chairperson commented that in April 2005, during an Immigration Launch, DHA had committed itself to the rollout of the smart card for refugees. DHA was now saying that this was "a trial". He asked why DHA had not delivered on its announcement. He asked where, in the Western Cape, were such cards being issued to refugees.
Mr Maqetuka responded that there had been a misunderstanding. The centres just described by him were dealing with the backlog. The smart card had been rolled out as promised, but difficulties with the technology had meant that there had been delays. He could not remember the precise date of the introduction.
The Chairperson asked Mr Maqetuka to ensure that the exact dates were conveyed to the Committee
Mr P Nkombule replied that the project was being dealt with at the regional office, which dealt with asylum seekers, and issued cards on determination of the status. The Chairman complained that this was not a specific answer and asked if his Committee could visit the centre today and view the cards being issued. At a later stage in the meeting the Chairperson commented that he had just received notification that smart cards were not being issued in Cape Town.
Ms Kalyan wished to know also whether this process was still ongoing, or had come to an end, and wished to know what difficulties had been experienced. Mr P Nkombule responded that the problem should have been dealt with by the end of the year under review, but many people had to be called back for interviews during the process. Whether it could be completed would depend on whether people attended their interviews, which were carried out by trained staff. All staff were contract employees, but it was intended that some would be offered permanent posts in the refugee offices. Mr Maqetuka confirmed that the backlog project was continuing. The technological problems had been resolved.
Mr Maqetuka stated that the questions posed were all dealing with the current situation whereas his report had actually addressed the period for 2004/05. He stated that the current situation would be covered during the presentation on the strategic plan. He confirmed that the residence applications had posed a problem during the 2004/5 period, because there was a long time in processing the applications. The steps taken to address these problems would appear from the later reports.
Strengthening the management team and improving service delivery
Mr F Beukman (ANC) noted that one of the objectives had been stated as strengthening the management team, which had led to the appointment of five Deputy Director Generals. He asked whether the problems did not lie with the management, and asked for a precise response on this issue. Mr Maqetuka responded that a number of senior posts had been filled in order to capacitate the department to deal with strategic and operational issues. Five Deputy Director Generals had been appointed in 2004 as these posts had not previously existed. There was indeed a question whether the training given had been sufficient.
Mr Beukman commented that up to date there had been no improvement in service delivery. He asked specifically whether the Director General was personally satisfied that the present team was fully effective and capable, and was fully equipped to deal with all issues. Mr Maqetuka replied that he would be touching upon this in his 2005/6 report. He was not convinced that DHA had the right skill and capacity, therefore he could not honestly say that his team was properly equipped to deal with all the issues.
The Chairperson referred to the comments of the Minister, which had seemed to cast some doubt upon whether the appointments had had the results expected. He asked whether performance contracts had been signed, and when the performance would be evaluated.
The Director General explained that because the provincial managerial posts, as they previously existed, were not sufficiently senior to meet the mandates expected, it had been decided to elevate the levels of senior officers in line with the added responsibilities to be given to the provincial service points. There was indeed a need to examine whether the skills really matched the requirements, where problems had arisen, and for what reason. He had personally put steps in place to ensure that performance agreements were signed with all Deputy Director Generals that reported to him. All had been signed by October 2005. The Deputy Director General of Corporate Services had investigated whether this process had been followed for 2004, and it was discovered that although agreements had been drafted, they had not been signed. This was the responsibility of the previous Director General, and steps had been taken to get these agreements signed. The 2004 processes for performance management would similarly need to be completed by his predecessor. The evaluations would begin shortly. Mr Maqetuka confirmed that he had signed his own performance agreement with the Minister, although he had not yet undergone the evaluation.
Ms L Mabe (ANC) asked when precisely the evaluations would take place. Mr Maqetuka replied that the PFMA required evaluations to be done on an annual basis, but that DHA had decided to undertake quarterly evaluations, so that there would already been an indication of performance on year-end. There was regrettably even a backlog in that process.
Mr W Skhosana(ANC) did not believe that elevating the posts would necessarily solve the problem. He believed that the focus of DHA was incorrect, and that DHA were too concerned with their own systems and offices to really give proper consideration to the factual improvement of the systems on an urgent basis. He suggested that the simple question was "What do we want our employees to do?" and that training and filling posts was useless if the Department did not have an answer on the work that needed to be done every day. Mr Skhosana cited a problem that he personally had experienced in obtaining an ID document for his son. He had purposely not pursued the issue too aggressively to test how the system coped. He had only received the document, after eventually having to make interventions through Head Office, four years later. He could not even obtain an answer to his telephone calls. DHA had definitely not achieved world-class service.
The Chairperson confirmed that this was the nub of the issue. Despite the rhetoric, the service did not improve.
Mr Maqetuka assured the Committee that the posts were not elevated purely for the sake of elevation, but rather to address the real issues of attracting the right skills for the job. He agreed that DHA needed seriously to examine whether their decision had been justified by events. The objectives of all offices had been addressed in the strategic plan, and service delivery was vital. DHA would need to ask itself if it was meeting the objectives. He fully understood and sympathised with Mr Skhosana’s problem with the ID document. Part of the problem arose from the backlog and the manual processes being used. Technology would help to speed up the processes but would not solve the problem that documents were untraceable. Good human resources were vital, from the counter staff right to top management.
Service delivery: Track and Trace systems and IT
The Chairperson asked for further clarification on the "track and trace" system mentioned previously.
Mr Kgabo Hlahla (Deputy Director, Information Services, DHA) stated that the strategic projects identified in the 2004/5 report were stated as one-year projects, but were intended to run over. His office had identified the need to establish a proper manual track and trace system so that if a document passed through ten officials, every one of them should keep a record and sign it. Unless the process of recordal had been sorted out, no amount of technology would help. This system was already running successfully in a number of provinces. The "Who Am I Online" project had used IT to assist people in finding out the stage that their application had reached. Mr Hlahla confirmed, in answer to a question from the Chairperson, that his office was investigating whether the recordal did indeed impact on service delivery. It was being introduced primarily as a workflow solution.
Mr S Swart asked for further clarification, in particular whether this system had drawn on the successes of other existing systems. Mr Hlahla stated that the "Who Am I Online" project was aimed at the ordinary citizen and any information was linked directly to the central database. This offered security and non-repudiation, as well as a system of verification. He confirmed that other systems had been taken into account, such as SARS and other entities.
The Chairperson asked Mr Hlahla to comment on his achievements in ICT since his appointment in 2004.
Mr Hlahla replied that he believed he had made some significant improvements. There had previously been no capacity in IT, and any provincial office with a computer problem would send the computer to Head Office. IT staff flew out to the missions. There were now regional IT managers to attend to the problems locally. The strategy had been revised in line with the overall strategy of DHA to adopt the mobile offices. Satellites had been installed to link to Head Office. The previous system had not been able to identify the staff responsible for certain processes in the system. The new system allowed for such a trace. About 8000 fraudulent ID documents that were accruing benefits had been cut off the system. Computers had been installed in 65 hospitals, which exceeded the target of 53 hospitals. The system had been upgraded and streamlined. Manuals on computer use had been issued. Offices had been linked. Conversion of backlogs was going well, being almost finalised. The target of 65 000 fingerprints to be digitalised every day had been exceeded, and his office was achieving about 120 000 digitilisations per day. 18 interns had been absorbed. Mr Hlahla could submit, if required, a fuller progress report to the Committee.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Hlahla and stated that the Committee would do its own evaluation. He would engage further with Mr Hlahla on the issue of user-ID safety systems. He asked Mr Hlahla to prepare a report and to include timeframes in it.
Counter corruption and whistleblowing
Mr S Swart asked for further comment on the counter-corruption initiatives, and asked whether any whistle-blowing initiatives had been approved, since the guidelines under the Act were still under consideration by the Portfolio Committee on Justice. Ms T Cele (Deputy Director General, DHA) responded that it had been necessary to appoint a Chief Director, now titled the Director of Security and Counter Corruption. A whistle blowing policy had been put in place, and she would take note of and get guidance from the Department of Justice’s draft.
Mr S Vundisa (ANC) asked what type of transformation initiatives had been taken on immigration.
The Chairperson stated that immigration effectively did collapse during this period, and the Committee’s intervention had led to the Minister setting up Task Teams. He added that there had been debate, when the Immigration Amendment Act was passed, around whether there should be separate immigration courts. It seemed that most of the magistrates were not conversant with the Act or the issues and many illegal immigrants were not being monitored properly. Border control, despite having been prioritised in the State of the Nation address, was still problematic.
DHA did not comment specifically on these remarks.
Ms N Mathibela (ANC) asked what was being done to address the question of qualification for citizenship after five years, and what was done to curb illegal marriages. She suggested that DHA should be monitoring the applications more carefully and examining the system to eliminate the possibility of frauds.
Ms M Maunye (ANC) asked whether DHA worked with the Department of Justice on fraudulent marriages and how precisely the issue was addressed.
Mr Maqetuka confirmed that fraudulent marriages were still a problem. A five-year plan had been introduced, which examined "marriages of convenience" as a route to citizenship, and this would need to be monitored.
National Population Register and smart cards for citizens and permanent residents
Ms Maunye asked how far DHA had managed to progress with the National Population Register.
The Chairperson added that this issue went back to 1996. He pointed out that Namibia already issued smart cards to its citizens, whilst South Africa could not. Nearly R1 billion had been invested in the project, but there was so little to show for it. The Chamber of Business estimated that R40 billion was lost per year through fraudulent ID documents and forgery. Birth certificates, that conferred citizenship rights, were still issued without any security features. The Director General, the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and the Government Printer had all been asked to find solutions, as they were already aware of some of the ways in which fraudulent documents could be created. Britain no longer accepted temporary travel documents from South Africa because of security concerns.
Mr Hlahla replied that DHA had introduced a programme on data clean-up in the Population Register, as well as a new design for the population register. It was quite an involved process since every possible duplication had to be investigated. Issuing of smart cards would be facilitated if all the information were known to be accurate. At the moment there were various different databases dealing with different information. DHA was aiming to have one database that could be used for any queries or purposes. Timeframes existed for all these programmes, and he would ensure that they were sent to the Committee.
The Chairperson commented that while many of the problems were not of the Director General’s making, the fact that they were ongoing caused great concern. He commented that DHA had not reported fully to the Committee on weaknesses, and he urged DHA to raise their concerns quarterly so that the Committee had a full and accurate picture. He was also concerned that there were problematic relationships between provinces and Head Office. He commented that in many respects the Director General had not given satisfactory answers.
Mr S Swart stated that the Committee had already requested a list of officials who could be called upon to assist with specific problems in constituencies. He reiterated that the Committee required a list specifying names of officials, the matters they dealt with, phone and fax and e-mail details.
Mr S Swart wanted to give some encouragement to DHA. It was very difficult for the Committee to have to keep raising the same issues. He was greatly inspired by the obvious commitment and passion of some members of DHA but urged that this be channelled into specific deliverables.
Address by the Minister for Safety and Security, Western Cape, on the recent events in Plettenberg Bay
The Chairperson welcomed the MEC of the Western Cape for Safety and Security, Mr Leonard Ramatlakane, to the meeting. He commented that there appeared to be growing xenophobia, particularly in the Western Cape, and that he had received a letter from the Consulate of Mozambique expressing concern and asking the Committee to address the issues. Although the South African government had tried to demonstrate understanding and commitment to assist refugees, that message had not filtered down to ordinary citizens. It seemed that it would be necessary for DHA’s education committee to take on this issue and tackle the problems.
Mr Ramatlakane thanked the Chairperson for the opportunity to address the Committee. He reported that the recent incident in Plettenberg Bay, when a group of locals had attacked a group of non-South African residents, had not been an isolated incident. In 2003 fights had broken out at De Noon informal settlement, which centred on concerns that foreigners were acquiring rights to houses and were marrying South African women. Another incident occurred outside Swellendam, when members of the local coloured community had launched an attack on some Congolese nationals who were living in a squatter camp, claiming that they were poaching on trade by selling craft items and opening local shops, taking business away from the long-standing community. The incident in Plettenberg Bay showed a similar pattern. The community who had been resident in the area for years were apparently largely unemployed. The municipality and local businesses were now prepared to exploit the cheap labour of the immigrants, who were seen as being unduly favoured and taking away the work. All incidents followed a scramble for scarce resources in poor areas.
Mr Ramatlakane confirmed that a commissioner would be joining him from Pretoria that day to investigate matters further, and he had already been in consultation with the Association of Refugees. Together they would address the problems and challenges of educating South African citizens on refugee issues, and he was pleased that the Chairperson had already asked DHA to give attention to this matter. During the Celebration of Africa function the previous evening he had invited some refugees to speak. Many of the refugees’ countries had provided shelter and support to South African citizens during the apartheid years, and now was the time for reciprocation.
Historically, the Western Cape was a very challenging area, containing many closed communities, particularly the coloured or non-South-African communities. The idea of "building a home for all" had yet to permeate to such communities. There was tension between those who were "not black enough", and tension between groups from different countries in Africa. These issues could best be dealt with through education. The communities and refugees from Africa (for the majority came from other African countries) would have to understand that this was a general problem that would need to be addressed.
Around 40 people had been arrested on charges of public violence in Plettenberg Bay and one Mozambique man had been killed. The police had intervened successfully and effectively. They had reported that it was a complex issue, and that part of the accusations stemmed from foreigners, who were not refugees, having managed to acquire ID documents in the Eastern Cape, and it seemed that perhaps there were issues to be addressed there. The broader issue was how to manage relationships with foreigners, and those who called themselves residents. The police had acted swiftly to stabilise the situation. The Mayor had been asked to have a forum, with discussions aimed at neutralising the tensions on a larger scale. At provincial government level, the issue would be dealt with by engaging communities on the need for broader acceptance of other nationals.
The Chairperson asked about the relationship of the Province to DHA. He commented that police seemed to be asking to see documents, and arresting those who could not produce them, despite the fact that the immigration legislation required police who wished to deal with immigration matters to make application through the Director General.
The MEC replied that there was no formal relationship with DHA, although there was probably a need to develop relationships with a number of departments to pick up on this issue. He would ask DHA to attend monthly meetings.
Mr Skhosana asked whether most of those involved were male. He asked whether the Human Rights Commission had been involved in the process and what community participation had been achieved.
Ms Y Mkalipi (Provincial Manager, Western Cape DHA) responded that staff resources posed a challenge. There had been visits by the Deputy Mayor and Ward Councillor. A crisis committee was established. DHA had welcomed this process, and there were good relationships with councillors and immigration staff. DHA at provincial level had previously not had its own guidelines but this incident had highlighted the fact that DHA officials should assist and safeguard foreigners (who were to be protected until proven illegal immigrants). As far as she was aware, some women and children had been involved too. The Department of Social Development had regrettably not been present. An interdepartmental meeting, including refugees and the Refugee Immigration Board, would be held on 7 June. Other steps would be taken to involve SAPS, Justice and Labour Departments. It had become clear that the building industry in particular was prepared to employ without negotiating fair wages. DHA had taken this issue very seriously and was working towards a collective strategy.
The Director General emphasised that provincial co ordination on a macro level would be an important part of the process.
The MEC summarised that the conflicting claims to resources and relationships indicated that most of those involved had been males. Exploitation clearly exacerbated the problem and feelings ran high.
The Chairperson commented that the Committee would engage with other relevant committees on this issue.