Department Strategic Plan: Ministerial Briefing; SITA Non Appearance: discussion

Home Affairs

02 June 2008
Chairperson: Mr P Chauke (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The State Information Technology Agency was due to appear and answer certain questions that had been asked about the systems on which the Agency was assisting the Department of Home Affairs. However, it was not present. After making enquiries, the Committee was handed a letter which had been addressed by the Minister of Public Service and Administration to the Speaker, indicating that she believed that any requests should have been directed to her as the shareholder of the Agency, and that she had therefore advised the Agency not to appear. Members pointed out that this Agency had appeared before the Committee before, and that the Committee believed that calling upon the Agency fell squarely within its functions. It was resolved to write to the Speaker, responding to the points raised, and then also to require the Minister of Public Service and Administration and the Agency to appear on Friday.

It was noted that the matters referred earlier to the Speaker around the budget of the Department and the reluctance of the Director General to have the provincial managers appear had not been resolved and therefore the budget vote had been postponed. The Minister, in her brief address, said that this was unfortunate but that she understood the position. She and the DG understood that a good working relationship with the Committee was necessary. She outlined a few of the programmes, noting that the new organisational structure, the rollout of the Smart Card System, the National Identity System and the state of the offices were important elements of the Strategic Plan. The transformation of the refugee status determination system was ongoing and the amendments to the Refugees Amendment Bill would align the process of status determination. She noted that she was still awaiting an invitation from the Committee to make a presentation on "Who am I Online". She had requested the Office of the Auditor General to conduct its own investigation on the processes followed, escalation of costs and other incidental matters.

The Director General presented the strategic plan, noting that the Department aimed to provide modern and cost effective services responsive to the needs of South African citizens. The mandate now reflected a more proactive role of ensuring access to rights through the issuing of documentation, as well as contributing to national security through its migration role. Strategic priorities included the development of a professional management team to control operations, and improvement of both systems and services, within the limitations of resources. Part of the rollout would depend on cooperation from other departments, including Public Works. The six strategic objectives were outlined, and fully explained. These included providing secure, efficient and accessible civic services to citizens and legitimate residents, within specified time frames; effective management of migration; work on the status of asylum seekers and management of refugee affairs; fostering regional and international cooperation; implementing a new organisational model and creating an environment to prevent corruption. There had been proposals to consider separating immigration and civic services, but the final decision was to create a partial separation, with the creation of zone managers who would handle immigration issues. The total budget for 2008/9 would be R4.5 billion, rising to R5.2 billion by 2010/11. Details of the strategic objectives, with their outputs and targets measured against specified indicators, were given. In regard to the new organisational model, it was intended that at least 700 priority posts must be filled this year, with the aim that there would be 11 115 staff in total by 2010/11. It was hoping to achieve a 10% reduction in the turnover rate of staff. Phase 1 of the Turnaround Strategy had been completed, and there would be review of Phase 2 at the end of 2008. A comprehensive departmental policy and legislative framework should be approved this year. Corruption would be minimised through competent analysis of physical and IT security National Population register system would be enhanced. It was hoped to have full digitisation of all records this year. The identity system technology refresh should be completed this year, as would the integration of refugee records.

Members questioned the organogram, the zones versus provinces debate, the size of the budget for services to citizens as against the budget for administration, whether the targets were achievable, what steps were being taken to document anyone in the camps or refugee centres, and to raise awareness of the section 22 permits.  Further questions would be raised on Friday.

 

Meeting report

The Chairperson announced that there were two parts to the meeting. The Minister would be attending from 11h30. State Information Technology Agency (SITA) had been asked to attend to indicate what support it was giving to Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to overcome its problems with IT systems, and to answer specific questions around the HANIS national identity card system. The Director General had previously indicated that he could not give many details on this as it was his predecessor's project. SITA had confirmed on the previous day that it was aware of the meeting, but was not present this morning.

Kgosi K Morwamoche (ANC) indicated that he was not surprised; there had been excuses every time this Committee attempted to do its oversight. He proposed that the Committee ask SITA to appear on Friday, failing which the Committee should use its powers to summon them. He noted that the DHA website referred the visitor to the SITA website, yet on checking the SITA website, there was always a note "pending", which seemed to indicate that nothing was happening.

Mr W Skhosana (ANC) suggested that the meeting be adjourned for about ten minutes, to find out where SITA was, and then take a decision.

On resumption, the Chairperson reported that the person contacted at SITA had reported simply that SITA would return the call, but had been unable to say where the delegates for SITA were. No apology had been tendered.

The Chairperson therefore suggested that a letter be written to the Minister of Public Services, requesting her to facilitate the appearance of SITA on Friday. SITA had a number of answers to give on various issues, especially the R2.5 billion project which it was supposed to be handling for the Department. That needed serious attention.

The Chairperson further noted that the budget vote of the Department of Home Affairs had been scheduled for deliberation later in the week. However, the issue between the Director General of DHA and the Portfolio Committee was still with the Speaker, who was investigating the allegations by the DG that Members seemed to be colluding, and the unhappiness of the Committee at the apparent reluctance of the DG to cooperate with the Committee, and the breakdown of the relationship. It was hoped that this issue would have been concluded, but while it was still pending the budget vote could not be dealt with. That vote had therefore been postponed until further notice.

Mr Skhosana noted that it was very difficult to operate when rules were being changed. This was not the first time that SITA had been required to appear and never before did this Committee need to go through the Minister. He suggested that the Minister of Home Affairs or the Director General could perhaps speak to the issue this morning, as they should be encouraging the giving of information by SITA.

Ms I Mars (IFP) said that clarity was needed. This Committee was trying very hard to facilitate matters, and she felt that much precious time was being wasted. She agreed with Mr Skhosana's suggestion.

Mr P Mathebe (ANC) noted that the Committee was merely trying to exercise its oversight role. He was upset that the Committee was being portrayed as confrontational, and he feared that someone was trying to sabotage the work of the Committee.

Mr Morwamoche said that the "gentleman's agreement" approach of inviting entities to appear seemed to be creating a problem. The Constitution clearly stated that the National Assembly or its Committee could summon a person or institution to appear. Nowhere was there a requirement to seek permission from the Minister. He felt that this Committee should follow the Constitution, and exercise its powers to summon SITA to appear.

Mr M Sibande (ANC) agreed. He too thought it unfortunate that the media was often showing this Committee as confrontational. He thought that the Committee should now take a strong stance.

Dr S Huang (ANC) said that he believed the Director General should explain what links there were between the matters.

The Chairperson noted that he had, a few seconds ago, at 10h00 (one hour after the meeting was scheduled to start) received a copy of a letter addressed to the Speaker by the Minister of Public Service and Administration. The letter was read out. It noted the request to the CEO of SITA to brief the Committee with regard to commercial transactions. The Minister believed that, as a shareholder of this institution, this request should have been addressed to her in terms of section 56(2) (sic) of the Constitution. She had accordingly advised that the CEO should not accede to this request until there had been interaction between “the Minister and legislature” in this regard. This letter had been copied to the Minister of Home Affairs.

Mr Mathebe said that the Minister of Public Service and Administration was not more powerful than the people of South Africa. This Committee was doing what it was set up to do. The Minister was accountable to Parliament and he did not believe that she had the power to instruct SITA not to come and account.

Mr Sibande asked for, and received confirmation, that the letter had been signed by the Minister herself.

Mr Morwamoche pointed out that there was no section 56(2) in the Constitution. He did not know what the Minister was referring to. The Director General of DHA had told the Committee that a Cluster of Ministers had told him not to do certain things. It seemed that this Minister was probably one of those giving him these instructions.

Mr Skhosana wondered how this decision had been arrived at, being based on a non-existent provision of the Constitution. It was probably correct that the Minister was a shareholder of SITA. However, SITA had work to do in a particular department, and he would have thought that this work effectively established a link between SITA and the Department, which was why he had suggested that perhaps clarity be sought from the Minister of Home Affairs and the DG as to their role and that of SITA. . He wondered what a "commercial transaction" as referred to in the letter meant and he was not sure if this was the work of SITA in DHA.

The Chairperson was surprised that this attitude was suddenly being adopted since SITA and the Committee had previously held workshops and similar interactions. The Committee had not believed that issues of security around documentation should be dealt with by a number of different contractors, and it was this concern that had led to the request that SITA assist with the HANIS system. SITA had been asked, in its letter inviting it to appear today, to be prepared to explain what role it was playing, what projects it had been dealing with, and specifically to deal with the project "Who am I Online", in which it was feared that there had been corruption. Any issues of corruption would have to be dealt with. 

The Chairperson suggested that a meeting be convened on Friday, at which the Minister of Public Service and Administration and SITA would be invited to state their case. The letter to the Minister should also point out that the section she had quoted did not exist and that she should clarify what she was referring to. In addition, this Committee was not "the legislature" but "Parliament". The Committee viewed this matter very seriously. It must begin to gather information around the project and must satisfy itself that there was sufficient information. This incident was unfortunate in that it had spoiled the good relationship with this entity in the past.

Mr Skhosana said that a case was already pending before the Speaker, and this letter was now putting further blame on the Committee. He suggested that the Speaker also be asked what she would like the Committee to do.

The Chairperson agreed that this was a valid point. He noted that since the Minister of Public Service and Administration's letter was addressed to the Speaker, it would be correct for the Committee to respond to the Speaker with its comments, and advise the Speaker of the decision to convene a meeting for Friday, furnishing a copy of the relevant letters to the Minister and SITA.

Department of Home Affairs Strategic Plan 2008-2011: Minister and Department briefing
The Chairperson welcomed the Minister of Home Affairs, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and the Deputy Minister, Malusi Gigaba, to the meeting, and outlined what had happened in the earlier session. He set out that this Committee had asked for the meeting to check up what had happened around issues of security, as it believed that SITA played a central role central to the DHA. He noted that a letter had now been addressed to the Speaker by the Committee and that a meeting was planned for Friday at 09h00.

The Chairperson reminded the Minister that the Committee had informed the Speaker that the relationship between the Committee and the Director General appeared to have broken down, and asked her to resolve the matter. It was hoped that future engagements would take place in a more trusting climate. The Committee was acting in the best interests of the country, and did not wish to be seen to be holding back on budgetary matters, but felt that the issues referred to the Speaker would need to be resolved first.

The Minister commented that she had heard of the SITA matter this morning, and if there were challenges relating to DHA and SITA she would still like to have the opportunity to make a presentation. She had not previously been asked by the Committee to comment on and clarify the contracts with SITA. On the budget, she felt it unfortunate that the matter had not been resolved, but it was good that the matter had been escalated to the level of the Speaker. She understood that the process was under way. She had not realised that the passing of the budget vote was conditional upon resolution of this matter, which was now being delayed to around 10 June. She accepted that position, but wished that the processes could have been separated. Finally, she was looking forward to having a good working relationship with the Portfolio Committee. She felt that resolution of the tension between the DG and the Committee should not be a precondition of that relationship, as under any circumstances the Minister and Committee must continue to find each other and work cooperatively. The same would apply to the DG, and tensions must be addressed so that the work could continue.

Since the previous year there had been much work in the Department. In the last year analyses had been done and solutions were found to the problems of service delivery. This meeting would inform the Committee how the solutions to the problems would be implemented. The new DHA would be efficient and effective in delivering services to the public, with realistic time lines. The strategic plan contained details of the plan and the time frames. The projects of the Turnaround formed part of the strategic plan.

The Minister highlighted some of the programmes. She had last year raised the possibility of reconfiguration of the department and a study was done that resulted in a new organisational structure. The previous structure had never taken into account the huge mandate and the complexities of achieving the new requirements. The new structure was approved by Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) and would be put in place during the Medium Term Economic Framework (MTEF). It used quality support, leadership and management to support the structures.

The roll out of the ID Smart Card had been in the process for many years. This was the outstanding element of the Home Affairs National Identity System (HANIS) and it would be implemented over the MTEF. It would be a culmination of the transformed ID process. The pilot would commence in December 2008. It was on track.

The state of the offices had been a source of complaint and this was being addressed as a strategic priority. Queue management systems would be introduced in the offices.

With regard to refugee status determination, the transformation of the system had been happening since last year, including the introduction of a new technology solution that allowed integration between reception offices, the backlog project and the concluded processes. The system now had been rolled out. The Minister was optimistic that the amendments to the Refugees Amendment Bill would align the process of status determination.

There had been challenges on the permit systems, and there were several initiatives launched, one being a pilot on four large accounts, which was now to be increased to twenty large accounts. The intention was to unveil centres of excellence to serve as incubators for training and the roll out of offices.

The financial reports should look better this year. The Acting CFO had done well and she was not expecting to hear complaints of fiscal dumping, as in the last year, nor challenges around supporting documents and the asset register. However, there were likely still to be issues around the Alien Account, over which DHA did not have sole control, although improvement was expected.

In regard to restructuring of the Government Printing Works (GPW) the Director General would report further on what had been done.

She noted that she was still awaiting an invitation from the Committee to make a presentation on "Who am I Online". She noted that there were concerns around it, and she had requested the Office of the Auditor General to conduct its own investigation on the processes followed, escalation of costs and other incidental matters. Parliament had raised this with the Speaker, and she had raised it with the AG. She was not aware of the exact issues, but felt it proper to take that responsibility of independent investigations.

Mr Mavuso Msimang, Director General, DHA, set out the vision and mission of the Department, which was to provide modern and cost effective services responsive to the needs of South African citizens. When the DHA reviewed the mission and value it had found that these could be fine-tuned, and so they differed slightly from the earlier printed report. The mandate was essentially to identify and confirm the status of persons and issue documents, thus ensuring access to rights, and this focus gave the DHA a more positive role than it had played before. The importance of its changed role lay in the deepening of democracy. It was also to manage migration at ports of entry and consulates and determine the status of asylum seekers. In this mandate it contributed to national security.

The Strategic priorities included the development of a professional management team to control operations. There was a transformation element, underpinned by funds voted for the turnaround, and this also involved major staff changes. There would be around 11 000 staff at the end of the next three years. The DHA would try to ensure that systems and services were improved. However, Mr Msimang pointed to severe limitations of resources, specifically the poor information systems inherited from the past. DHA would work closely with other departments and build links to ensure better synergy. He outlined the model that would transform the Department, noting that clients were government departments, parliament, financial institutions and private individuals. The model saw the use of facilities that were acquired for government departments and Home Affairs through Department of Public Works (DPW) and part of the rollout would depend on cooperation from DPW. Information Technology (IT) had been a weak element, and this was being boosted.

There were six strategic objectives. The first was to provide secure efficient and accessible civic services to citizens and legitimate residents, within specified time frames. The second involved effective management of migration. The third related to work on the status of asylum seekers and management of refugee affairs. DHA had to foster regional and international cooperation to improve economic growth and development. It must also deliver the mandate effectively by implementing a new organisation model and create an enabling environment through effective services that would prevent corruption. There had been consultations around restructuring and management of the responsibilities. During that process there were proposals to consider separating immigration and civic services. Finally, it was decided that all services be kept in the department with a partial separation to reflect the different modalities in functioning. It was important to note that immigration services required quick turnaround whereas the civic services applied to the more regular mode of functioning, with the focus on area rather that function.

The proposed budget was broken down across the four programmes. The total budget for 2008/9 would be R4.5 billion, rising to R5.2 billion by 2010/11 Further details were given on the content and budgetary breakdown of each programme.

The strategic plan was located within a broader strategic outlook. There were six strategic objectives, which were aligned to government's strategic priorities. Each objective had outputs and targets measured against specified indicators. Other specific areas such as human resources, service delivery improvements and finance were covered separately.

Mr Msimang then went on to emphasise the outputs and targets for each of the strategic plans (see attached presentation for full details).

Mr Msimang noted that the targets would be affected by the support obtained from the DPW. The time frames set out the plans for processing of documents in 2008/9 and the next two years thereafter. For instance, 85% of all applications for unabridged birth, marriage and death certificates for new registrations should be completed within 1 day. ID documents should be correctly issued within 60 days, and in the third year, when the smart Card was more fully rolled out, it was hoped to achieve this within 30 days. ID re-issues should be done in the next year within 56 days and temporary IDs should be available within one day. He stressed that issues of security were to be emphasised throughout. The targets aimed also to address issues of corruption, and realised that the process should not be rushed as it was vital to achieve security and combat fraud and corruption. Emphasis was also being placed on cleaning up the discrepancies where there were duplicate ID documents. Further funding would be required for digitisation of birth marriage and death certificates. The Department of Public Service and Administration had identified six e-government projects, three of which would involve the DHA.

In so far as the migration management function of DHA, the aim was to enable movement of skilled workers into the country and efficiently and securely facilitating their entry, stay and exit. DHA was growing the number of large corporate accounts. Mr Msimang explained that this process involved DHA determining the needs of large companies for skilled workers and setting up desks to service their needs. In the past year this was done for Gautrain, Lafarge, Mittal Steel and Anglo. This year 50 large accounts had been identified for assistance. Determination of skills requirements was done by Departments of Labour, Trade and Industry, Science and Technology and Public Enterprise, with DHA being a facilitator. A baseline survey would be carried out on customer satisfaction around service delivery. Time frames were set for issuing of temporary residence permits, visas and clearance of travellers. Ten additional foreign offices would be set up in the forthcoming year. It was noted that airline liaison officers were being placed in countries to screen some of those wishing to enter the country, particularly pending 2010. Illegal immigration needed further management although the first line of defence at the borders resided with South African Police Services (SAPS). DHA focus would be on ports of entry and consular offices, but it must be realised that its role was limited.

In relation to determining the status of asylum seekers, Mr Msimang pointed out that the Section 22 permits allowed people into the country, pending assessment of their status, and these should be issued within a day. Refugee status should be finalised within 6 months. The Standing Committee on Refugee Affairs reviews, and the Refugee Appeal Board cases must also be processed within set time frames.

The fourth strategic objective related to the fostering of cooperation towards economic growth, and would include events of importance to the country, such as the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The DHA must be effectively equipped to manage all processes relating to these events, and liaison with other departments was vital.

Mr Msimang gave details of the new organisational model. The key was to create capacity. There were at least 700 priority posts to be filled this year, and these must be put on PERSAL to do the job evaluations. The DHA was building to having 11 115 staff in total by 2010/11. It was hoping to achieve a 10% reduction in the turnover rate of staff. It was hoped to train 70% of targeted staff this year. The staff composition should conform to the imperatives of government.

The final objective related to support services that were efficient and prevented corruption. Business processes and systems would be re engineered this year. There were still many risks that had been identified but the mitigation strategy should be fully implemented during the year. The review on this would continue. The internal controls and governance and risk management would be done within specified business units. All of the revenue collected must be fully accounted for and there would be full compliance with all legislation. Phase 1 of the Turnaround Strategy had been completed, and there would be review of Phase 2 at the end of 2008. A comprehensive DHA policy and legislative framework should be approved this year. There would be programmes developed for priority policies and legislation. The focus on clients and their needs should result in centres of excellence, which should be completed this year. 33 offices would be refurbished according to minimum standards, and this was not dependent on DPW. Client services would focus on speedy answering of calls. The Department had already won some prizes.

Corruption would be minimised through competent analysis of physical and IT security, and all systems should be amalgamated in this year. The full compliance to the Minimum Information Security Standards (MISS) would be established this year. The changes would be proactively communicated. He set out the timelines for online verification systems, including a new passport machine, and integrated live capture systems to be rolled out in the year, to identified offices. This would enable the use of biometrics for identification. The National Population register (NPR) system would be enhanced. It was hoped to have full digitisation of all records this year. The HANIS technology refresh should be completed this year, as would the integration of refugee records.

Mr Jacob Mamabolo, Turnaround Manager, DHA, returned to the partial separation model. He noted that this had been mentioned during the Turnaround presentation. There would be a partial separation between civics and immigration services. This suggestion was made following the recognition of a structural problem that was affecting service delivery. Several functions were originally being executed from the offices of the provincial manager, and also had an impact on the allocation of funds. DHA was a huge office, with much manual work, and the capacity of provincial managers was limited by the number of functions that they executed. The challenge was therefore to design a structure that would allow for effective supervision and control. In introducing this model, the functions of different provincial managers were not being clustered into a zone, but the role of the zonal manager would not relate to all the functions, but focus only on zone management of civic services matters. He tabled an illustrative diagram. The zones had increased but the functions were more closely described and defined. The zone managers would focus on key service delivery and understanding the needs of the clients.

Discussion
Mr M Louw (DA) asked for clarity on the organogram, and whether it was in line with the discussions during the Turnaround, or whether it was a new one. He also asked whether the new partial separation model was in line with those discussions or had come out subsequently.

Mr Louw noted that the zones versus provinces debate had not been addressed. He asked why it was considered important to follow the zone, rather than the provincial route.

The Minister said that the organogram was the same as presented earlier, and it responded to the challenges identified earlier. The recommendations of the Iinvestigation Task team were taken into account. This was an attempt to deal with those challenges. It could be discussed in more detail later.

Mr Msimang noted, in relation to the zones, that there were two competencies requiring different skills. Problems at a port of entry should not be taken to a provincial structure, but there should be direct lines and a fast turnaround. It should not be necessary to burden a provincial structure simply because of the location of the port of entry. It was important that financial and HR support be combined, so that there should not be two home affairs offices.  Depending on which function was more important, support should be attached to civics or migration. The call centre could be located anywhere, but the bulk of the calls related to IDs, so the responsibility should be that of the civics function. There was a need to have centralised and more effective support systems, with the functions separated for cost effectiveness.

Mr Msimang added that the zone managers would have greater accountability for functions. The functions were being streamlined to one person The zone managers did not reduce the number of provinces, but supervised the functions.

Mr Louw noted that the services to citizens seemed to have a small budget, being less than the budget for administration.

Mr Louw asked whether the targets were achievable, in view of the current lack of staff and capacity.

The Minister said that these targets would be met, because there was a commitment not only to filling vacancies identified in the structure, but also because the management was addressing the systems.

Ms H Weber (DA) asked when "Who am I Online" would be implemented.

Ms Weber also asked what steps were being taken to document anyone in the camps or refugee centres. She had found that some of the people were not aware that they could request Section 22 documents and she thought there was a need to address this as well.

The Minister said that it was the intention to provide some form of documentation, although there would not be permanent documents, because of the exemptions that would apply to those affected by the violence. Whatever documents were provided would have to be non-forgeable, and that was what the DG and his team were investigating. People were being registered by taking fingerprints, so that whatever documents were issued would be capable of tracking.

The Minister said that many of the people were not interested in acquiring Section 22 permits, as many of them were illegal immigrants who would not want to contact the DHA officials. Many of them, even if they were to acquire these permits, would have to appear before a Status Determination Officer and would not qualify for refugee status. Economic migrants who were undocumented would not want to know where the reception offices were,as there idea was to avoid any contact with the legal structures. . Work would be done to assist those who wanted the Section 22 permits. The process would give a better idea of what was required.

The Chairperson noted that further questions could be put on Friday.

The Minister indicated that she would not be available on Friday.

The meeting was adjourned.

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