News Articles

Home affairs is urgently seeking ‘a divorce’

Source: City Press, 13/10/2019

The two painted a bleak picture of a department that is severely
undercapacitated and unable to keep up with the demands of service
delivery, pointing to the failures of “third parties” as
contributing to the underperformance of home affairs.
It is not working because we are spending more than R300 million
on an annual basis on rentals and at the end of the financial year
we have nothing to show for it.
Thulani Mavuso
Mavuso revealed that the department was operating at 44% of the
approved structure because of a lack of funding.
He said home affairs was short of 11 432 employees.
He said the relationship with public works, which home affairs
relies on for a number of its offices, had become dysfunctional.
“I want to put this as bluntly as it is. We are relying on the
provision of space from public works and it is not working. It is
not working because we are spending more than R300 million on an
annual basis on rentals and at the end of the financial year we
have nothing to show for it. Some of these offices are not
adequate in terms of infrastructure; they don’t cater for the live
capture environment so we need a remodel before we move in,”
Mavuso said.
He said the department spent millions on upgrading the spaces only
to be moved out of them every few years, effectively throwing
money away.
He said his department had approached the sister department,
asking it to buy the Lindela facility ` used as a repatriation
centre ` which is owned by the company formerly known as Bosasa.
“We have asked public works to buy that facility so that we can at
least own the facility and we can run it ourselves or get someone
else to run it so that at least that physical infrastructure is
owned by public works.
“We have been told that the process is moving, but on the other
side we have been informed by the liquidator that there are
private interests looking to buy the facility. So you will find
that public works may be overtaken by private interests.
“So we thought we should flag this to the committee as one of the
challenges we face.”
Motsoaledi agreed that the department was caught between a rock
and a hard place, but disagreed that the purchase should be made
by public works.
“What we are negotiating is that the liquidator must find a way to
finalise this matter even if it is bought by a third party with
whom we will renegotiate a new deal ` and that is one of the
things we are doing.
“I know Mavuso said the department was asking public works to buy
it. I personally am not very eager for public works to buy it. If
public works buys it and then next time it does not pay for
electricity or for water, it is not going to be very good. So I
would prefer that it is us buying the facility directly.”
The minister recounted an incident when public works failed to
settle an electricity bill with the City of Tshwane, resulting in
the power at the home affairs office being switched off.
“That back office has been declared a national key point because
if something happens to it then all of the civil matters in the
country come to a halt.
“But the building is owned by public works. Last month they didn’t
pay the electricity, the Tshwane municipality switched it off.
When the electricity was switched off, all 412 offices might as
well have closed because there was nothing anyone could do.
“They [public works] said the municipality sent them a bill of R36
million which they did not agree with and that was why the bill
was not paid. If it was us paying for ourselves, we will know the
consequences of querying R36 million and shutting down the whole
country. That is more millions. So we are saying don’t be
surprised. We want to serve divorce papers on issues such as
these. We would rather serve ourselves on such issues.”
Mavuso lamented the relationship between the home affairs and
Sita. He said that the agency had provided an unreliable network
often resulting in system down times.
“A few years back Sita held a meeting with the portfolio committee
of home affairs and telecommunications to discuss this issue and
there were many promises that were made by Sita in 2016 on the
type of service that they were going to give us to ensure that we
have 99.9% network availability. As of today that has not been
realised,” Mavuso said.
The minister said that the issue with Sita had been raised with
the president and the department was anticipating his “guidance”.
“Sars [the SA Revenue Service] is not forced to be under Sita,
[but] we are forced. Sita doesn’t deliver ` they are not; I am not
bad-mouthing them.
“All government departments, wherever you go, [and you ask] why
this or that didn’t happen [the answer is] Sita, Sita ` I still
don’t know why it is that they cannot do [their job]. I think the
state was trying to get an agency to do its work but it is not
working.”
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