Modernising the Department of Home Affairs, Fighting Corruption
At a consultative meeting on the repositioning of the Department of Home Affairs in Cape Town, Deputy Director-General: Institutional Planning & Support, Mr Thulani Mavuso, ran a multi-stakeholder group through the Department’s plans expressed in and flowing from the White Paper on International Migration, a recently published policy paper which forms the basis for legislative and structural changes over the coming 10 years.
The “repositioning” plans are largely well founded and motivated. The Department very frankly names its challenges and weaknesses (e.g. "The staff profile is skewed towards the lower ranks, with 60% having only matric or lower qualifications.", "Officials who cannot resolve problems give excuses or tell clients to come back. The situation encourages bribery and extortion." and "There are too many foot soldiers and not enough staff at supervisory levels.") and provides a plausible analysis of their causes. Some positive items from the policy papers:
- The Department has been very successful with improving the turn-around time of passport applications (now usually a few days) and with its roll-out of the smart-ID cards. Cooperation with the four major banks in South Africa has made this process more user-friendly. The technology used at airports to capture travellers’ biometric data has been upgrade and promises to bring relief.
- A new system is being developed to replace the existing National Population Register. The National Identity System (NIS) will be a secure integrated system recording identities and status of all persons who visit or reside in South Africa. The system will be linked to all other Home Affairs systems, including the biometrics capturing system at airports and other ports of entry.
- Home Affairs continues to fight corruption and fraud through a combination of strengthening the work of its Counter Corruption unit through the “Bvisa Masina” – cleaning the rot – programme (resulting in 166 arrests for fraud and other crimes - 85 officials and 81 members of the public- since 2015) and strategic changes which will reduce the need and opportunity for bribes. Improved digital systems and processes and better trained staff will lead to shorter turn-around times; real-time and accurate access to people’s data will make it more difficult to circumvent official processes.
Probably the biggest stumbling block on the way to achieving its goals will be funding. A number of revenue streams are being proposed, including offering more value-added, premium, one-stop shop, VIP and similar services at an additional fee, similar to the one-stop-shop office opened earlier this year in Gauteng and the one planned to be opened in Cape Town soon.
We will report back soon on how effective these offices are.