Committee calls for resolution of challenges at foreign missions

Addressing challenges at foreign missions will require cooperation between the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs said in Parliament on Wednesday.

The observation came after findings by the Office of the Auditor-General painted a worrying picture of challenges at foreign missions.

The Office of the Auditor-General briefed the committee on a Foreign Mission Observation report that they undertook on various missions. One of the key challenges raised was that some of the high volume missions are not adequately capacitated in terms of human capital, which leads to longer turnaround times in visa applications. The storage of applications was highlighted as a challenge.

The committee has highlighted a need for constant training of DIRCO officials who assist the Department of Home Affairs to administer the visa process. This, the committee said, will alleviate the pressure Home Affairs faces in relation to lack of warm bodies in some missions as a result of high cost of employees versus its decreasing budget allocation.

It is a simple fact that the fiscus is currently facing competing pressures and that Treasury has decided to trim spending on compensation of employees. To mitigate against a negative impact of this decision, these departments must work together to find workable solutions, said committee chairperson Hlomani Chauke.

The committee said the collaboration is important if the country is to achieve the goals set by President Cyril Ramaphosa to stimulate economic growth. It said the increase in tourism and business investment will boost the country's revenue base.

If we improve services and turnaround times in issuing visas, then the country will be well on its way to grow the economy, which will eventually lead to increased allocations to government departments, Chauke emphasised.

Meanwhile, the committee has decried the slow progress in completion of procurement of the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) that is set to replace the Home Affairs National Identification System (HANIS).

While the committee is cognisant of the challenges in migrating Information and Technology services as well as procurement frameworks that must be followed, it is of the view that the process must be expedited. The project delays caused by data migrations from HANIS must be resolved urgently, the committee said in a statement.

The system is expected to drastically improve service delivery improvements due to faster turnaround times for ID documents or passports applications. It is also expected to reduce the duplication of identities as well as a futuristic identification.

The committee welcomed operational plans by sister departments in preparation for the festive season border management.

The committee has called on the Department of Home Affairs to work closely with key stakeholders in efforts to increase the collection of Identity documentation at various department offices. The department can use Community Development Workers, schools and as well as the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa to resolve this.

With the elections coming next year it is important that people receive their ID's to enable them to register to vote, Chauke emphasised.

Source: South African Government News Agency