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MPs Concerned About Home Affairs’ Contract for Visas

The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs wants the renewal of a contract to outsource the processing of visas reviewed, likening it to the controversial Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) contract.

The committee recently resolved to write to Minister of Home Affairs Siyabonga Cwele to review the contract with VFS Global.

The committee heard that the contract with VFS Global was renewed for two years in December, without it going through the open tender procurement process. The department initially contracted VFS Global in 2010.

Chief director of immigration services at the department Richard Stolz said the extension of the contract “was legally provided for”. He said there would have been an “immense” reputational risk to the department if there was a discontinuity in their operating model.

But MPs are highly critical of the deal.

DA MP Haniff Hoosen said it destroyed job creation in South Africa because the deal meant that several local companies providing visa services had to close their doors.

ANC MP and chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Tourism Lusizo Sharon Makhubela-Mashele, who also attended the meeting, likened it to the South Africa Social Security Agency’s (Sassa’s) controversial dealings with CPS.

Committee chairperson Hlomani Chauke also subscribed to this idea.

“The extension creates a perception of another Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), which was the only service provider at the South Africa Social Security Agency said to have the capacity to render services. It is even more concerning that the department has extended the scope of work of VFS to establish services in countries it did not have previously,” Chauke said in a statement released after the meeting.

Several MPs said it seemed like the law was amended to deliberately give VFS Global a monopoly.

“Maybe, if we can’t conclude these issues, we must refer it to the Zondo commission [into state capture]. It is part of state capture,” Chauke said.

“Deliberately, you have amended legislation to create this monopoly. It killed all the small players.”

After being castigated by the committee, deputy director general of immigration services Jackie Mckay said: “We note all of the issues that are raised here.”

He acknowledged that it was not the first time that the committee had raised it.

“We take note of it.”

He said before the contract expired, they had started with an open tender process, but in April last year received a legal opinion to not follow such a process.

“That threw a spanner in the works,” Mckay said.

“We have no interest in who is delivering the service, as long as the service is delivered to us.”

Mckay said “serious, serious capacity problems” had been the bane of his existence.

“We just don’t have the staff.”

He said they had approached Treasury on several occasions, to no avail. This did little to appease the committee.

In his statement, Chauke said the committee would like to hear from Cwele about the possibility of going out on an open tender process and his plans to build capacity within the department to quickly process visa applications.

Cwele will be expected to respond to the committee within a week to ensure that the matter is dealt with before Parliament rises.

“While the committee acknowledges that Parliament has no right to inform the department on whom to contract for services, it would be a dereliction of its duty if it did not highlight cases where the department is deliberately breaking its own rules and guidelines,” read the statement.

“It is even more concerning that capacity in key tourism markets, such as Nigeria and India, is lacking, leading to few processed applications impacting on the numbers of tourists coming into the country,” Chauke said.

VFS Global describes itself as the “world’s largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide” on its website.

“The company manages the administrative and non-judgmental tasks related to visa, passport, identity management and other citizen services for its client governments. This enables them to focus entirely on the critical task of assessment.”

The company’s headquarters are in Dubai, its parentage is Swiss and it is a portfolio company of EQT, a global private equity firm headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden.

Last week, the committee also asked Cwele to investigate the department’s contract for the automated biometric identification system with technology company EOH.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: PhilippN [1], [2].

Richards Bay Home Affairs Faces More Complaints

The Richards Bay Department of Home Affairs has once again come under the spotlight from disgruntled members of the public, who say the systems are constantly off-line, whether during load-shedding or not.

People wanting to make use of the department’s services, including obtaining ID books or smart cards, birth and death certificates or passports, are left standing in the late summer sun when the systems are down, sometimes with no time frame as to when they will be online again.

One member of the public said this issue has been ongoing for the past two weeks.

‘Many people do not have the money to make the trip numerous times.’

The department acknowledged that load-shedding has contributed to some downtime experienced at the Richards Bay branch, but that this is not continual, nor has the system been offline for two weeks.

‘Apart from that, there is a problem with the central IT server at the department’s Pietermaritzburg head office.

The spokesperson said there is nothing that each individual home affairs branch can do to rectify the problems with the central server, but that the Richards Bay technicians are hassling the technicians in Pietermaritzburg in their bid for feedback.

Five things to do to make your trip to Home Affairs easier:

1. Phone the branch beforehand to ensure it is operational

2. Find out the quietest time of day or quietest day of the week

3. Do as much of your application online as possible

4. Apply for your document in good time

5. Ensure you arrive at the office early in the morning

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Home Affairs Slow to Comply with Refugee-related Court Orders

Home Affairs is one of the most “hated” state entities amongst South Africans. For years, people have complained about long queues, lost documents and terrible service. For refugees seeking asylum, though, the issues are a lot more severe.

It has taken multiple Home Affairs ministers and seven years for the department to comply with a court order and reopen a Refugee Reception Office (RRO) in Port Elizabeth.

At the same time, Home Affairs remains in breach of a separate court order to re-open the Cape Town RRO.

The department has now opened the Port Elizabeth office after constant requests and queries from the DA-governed Nelson Mandela Bay metro, as well as NGOs.

DA Shadow Minister of Home Affairs Haniff Hoosen says that the lack of action from Minister Malusi Gigaba and Home Affairs in Cape Town is an indictment on his leadership.

NGOs in the Mother City are currently urging the court to appoint a Special Master to oversee Gigaba’s compliance with the order.

The DA says incidents like this raise concerns around illegal immigration.

“The inefficiency of Home Affairs negatively affects asylum seekers who seek to regularise their stay in South Africa. The Department’s inability to process asylum applications could fuel illegal immigration as it will leave many refugees undocumented,” Hoosen said.

Last month, Gigaba gave the public an update on the department’s goals for the smart ID card. By 2023, they had planned to have everyone moved over from the previous ID books.

While South Africans were recently caught out by a fake post claiming that all green barcoded ID books will be expiring in 2018, the department does have plans to phase them out slowly over time.

With more South Africans flooding Home Affairs offices in an attempt to get their ID card, Gigaba also urged citizens to “not expect miracles” when visiting.

 

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Sources: Nic Andersen via The South African [1]. Image sources: [1].

Home Affairs Must Speed Up Dealing With Child Refugees: Lawyer

Home Affairs must work faster to clarify the status of displaced children, says Centre for Child Law director Ann Skelton.

More than half the world’s refugees are children, according to the United Nations.

This is believed to be the highest proportion of child to adult refugees on record since World War Two.

It’s unclear how many child refugees there are in South Africa, but in late 2017, an estimated 280,000 refugees and asylum seekers were living in the country.

Skelton says Home Affairs needs to accelerate its processes.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, and Remuneration needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: eNCA [1]. Image sources: [1].