Minister looks to clean up Home Affairs Dept

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the new broom at the head of the Home Affairs Ministry, announced in Parliament on Friday a cluster of measures designed to improve service from her department.

They include the establishment of 13 additional home affairs service points and the improvement of the effectiveness of the 117 computerised mobile units that are used to service remote areas.

She also announced that the department is to undertake a huge campaign to the end of 2011 to register all children under 16 years of age. Noting that late registration of birth is the entry point for those who want to acquire South African documents fraudulently, the minister said that the 2011 campaign will delink the ID application from the application for late registration of birth.

“After 2011 all children should be registered before their first birthday,” she said, explaining: “This will be the first step towards securing our identity because the birth certificate is the basic document that allows us access to the ID, passport etc. The abridged birth certificate will be improved to include some security features, the name and ID of the mother.”

The birth certificate campaign will be followed by a campaign to issue IDs to everyone as they turn 16 years of age. “This will mean the vast majority of South Africans will be properly captured in our population register,” she told the House. “Space will then be created to properly scrutinise those who try to get IDs when they are not South Africans. This will contribute towards a more secure South African identity and a more accurate and credible population register. It will also remove the pressure of issuing new ID applications during elections.”

The new minister also insisted that it is essential now to introduce the often-postponed ID smart card. She blamed delays in the administration of the tender by the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) for derailing the plan, and added: “We are looking at the most effective way of getting the process back on track.”

She also confessed that a new passport-printing machine to replace the old inefficient system has not cleared the backlog in issuing passports. “Unfortunately, official tardiness in putting in place an effective personal information processing system that matches the high security requirements of the passport resulted in the creation of a backlog in the issuance of passports to citizens,” she said. “The department undertakes that there will be no backlog by end of July 2009, we will be back to our normal flow.”

She also addressed the crisis of corruption in the department, saying: “Although there are thousands of hard-working honest civil servants at home affairs, unfortunately there are lots of corrupt officials who work with syndicates, corrupt members of the public and sometimes corrupt private security members and some businesses.”

She promised: “We are going to strengthen the anti-corruption unit [integrity unit]. More effective and efficient measures need to be employed if we are to make a difference. For us to succeed it will have to be a national effort. Security companies, members of business, members of Parliament and, more importantly, the public have to assist both in alerting us to the culprits and also resisting the temptation.”

Dlamini-Zuma also said that though there are budgetary constraints in filling staff vacancies, she will concentrate on the recruitment of deputy directors general so as to ensure that the department has competent leadership. — I-Net Bridge

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