Parliament cracks down hard on Home Affairs

Anna Majavu

Anna Majavu

After many years of her bumbling performance, the ANC in Parliament stripped Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula of her responsibility as the department's political head.

Stopping short of firing her, the ANC-dominated portfolio committee on home affairs yesterday said it would today call on the Treasury and the department of Public Service and Administration to take over the running of the home affairs department.

This means that the department will now be under the tutelage of Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi.

This is the second time that the Treasury has been called upon to rescue the department. One other such intervention happened in 2006.

Asked why his party did not fire Mapisa-Nqakula for lack of performance, ANC spokesman Brian Sokutu said: "We urged every minister to stay after Mbeki was recalled to restore stability and we will see what happens after the elections."

Committee members told Home Affairs director-general Mavuso Msimang they were not willing "to keep on dishing out money to the department without it being used properly".

Committee chair Patrick Chauke said the department had been given R1 billion to turn itself around, "but every year we are going backward".

In January, Chauke raised the same concerns about the department's non-performance

"For the past few years we have had to deal with chaos in the department. We are sick and tired of having to deal with the same problems time and again," he told the committee.

Yesterday, Democratic Alliance MP Mark Lowe said the department could not cope and was "simply unable to fix its most basic financial systemic problems".

Under Mapisa-Nqakula, the department has been dogged by problems, including receiving qualified audit reports in the past five years.

Its chief financial officer, Pat Khambule, has been on suspension on full pay for more than a year.

On Tuesday the portfolio committee suspended the R1billion "Who am I" online project after it emerged that the total costs of the project were likely to snowball to R4billion.

The project was supposed to upgrade existing systems in preparation for smart card IDs and electronic passports.

An auditor-general's report presented on the same day also revealed that the department did not have proper record-keeping mechanisms in place.

The report said there were no systems to record immigration fines, leading to fines and penalties amounting to R29 million being unconfirmed.

Other problems include the involvement of some of its staff members in syndicates issuing false identity documents and marriage certificates.

Law-abiding South Africans have also borne the brunt of the department's incompetence, including being issued with wrong identity documents.

The department has also been blamed for its ineffective dealing with the refugee situation in the country.

Yesterday Msimang asked for more time to turn the department around.

He said when he was brought in to overhaul Home Affairs last year, he expected to do so "without the bureaucratic requirements of government".