Home Affairs revamp

Waghied Misbach

The long-awaited plan to overhaul the corruption-plagued Department of Home Affairs is now being considered by the cabinet.

This was announced yesterday by Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, who was speaking on the state of governance of the civil service.

Fraser-Moleketi said the final report had been sent to the cabinet for further discussion and recommendations.

The report is the work of an interministerial committee which was mandated to take over the department because of mismanagement and corruption.

The minister said proposals would likely see "far-reaching steps" being taken to turn around the department.

"Some steps have already been completed. As far as whether the plan will see a turn-around, you be the judge."

Fraser-Moleketi said the government was expected to give further details on the turn-around strategy later in the year.

Of all the government departments, home affairs was the poorest performer. In the 2004-2005 financial year, it was given a disclaimer by the auditor-general. This in essence meant that the auditor-general could not trust any of its financial records to form an opinion on its management.

A number of the department's employees were arrested for selling identity documents to foreigners. It also saw a high turnover of staff. Currently, the department does not have a director-general, the person who serves as accounting officer.

Fraser-Moleketi said that various programmes of the department's national identification system (Hanis) were now either "at an advanced stage or completed".

This is after eight years of work of the system that was started under the department's former minister, Mangosuthu Buthelezi. The introduction of Hanis will lay the basis for the introduction of the "smart card" that will replace the bar-coded ID.

In future, everyone applying for IDs will have their fingerprints screened against this new electronic database. This would ensure that there was no fraudulent duplicates being produced. The aim is to have a system that does not use any paper.

Fraser-Moleketi also indicated that the department will have offices in 172 locations across the country over the next few years. This year it plans to complete 13 percent of the total offices planned.

Some of the offices will be newly constructed, some leased and existing state-owned buildings and multi-purpose centres will also be utilised, she said.