Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi says his department will recruit more workers in order to deal with the issue of long queues at its offices.
Motsoaledi delivered his budget during Parliament’s mini plenary vote meeting on Tuesday.
During the proceedings, the minister said “it is common cause” that there are long queues at various Home Affairs branches across the country.
“There are numerous reasons that are responsible, however, the main one that sticks out like a sore thumb among the rest is the issue of system downtime,” he said.
The minister explained to MPs that the matter of Home Affairs’ system being down was “beyond just fixing computers”.
“It is painful and generates a lot of anger visit Home Affairs offices very early in the morning and just there and wait for hours on end because the system are down. It is very frustrating to say the least.
“Many members of the public simply believe [that] the Department of Home Affairs’ computers don’t work.
“They always ask us ‘why don’t you just switch on the computers or buy new ones [but] we can’t blame them because they don’t know that the continuous system downtime is beyond just fixing computers,” he said.
Having told the portfolio committee on Home Affairs of the department’s plans to bolster its IT systems, Motsoaledi said the State Information Technology (Sita) would spend R400 million to revamp its entire network.
He said the procurement process had already been completed in this regard.
“This revamp will be concluded in the third quarter of this financial year,” he said.
“Sita has finalised its procurement plan to address cyber-security for our IT infrastructure. This will be implemented during this financial year once law enforcement agencies have given approval,” the minister said.
Motsoaledi revealed that Sita has committed to spend almost R1 billion on IT infrastructure to support Home Affairs and other departments.
“But we know that the Department of Home Affairs will be one of the major beneficiaries,” he said.
He added that eight engineers would be brought in to assist to stabilise Home Affairs’ network as well as installation of some key IT infrastructure.
Offices in malls
Motsoaledi also indicated that the department would open offices in shopping malls across the country.
“As an immediate relief measure we have been engaging several malls in our country. Operating Home Affairs offices at malls will obviate the problem of queuing in the sun or rain. Malls will provide convenient an safe parking for clients.
“We will start with Menlyn in Pretoria, Cresta Mall and Southgate Mall in Joburg, the Pavillion in eThekwini and Tygervalley Mall in Cape Town.
“Since the malls have to move tenants around to make way for Home Affairs, we will install our equipment in the malls around September this year. We shall start with Menlyn Mall in Pretoria and then roll out to the rest of the country,” he said.
“We have bought 10 extra mobile trucks for R15 million and will add another 15 this financial year for R20 million. Our trucks were very helpful during the recent floods in KZN, and hence we value them a lot,” Motsoaledi added.
The minister further said the department will also be hiring more staff members after receiving more than R200 million from National Treasury.
“We have complained on a number of occasions that our front offices are only 39% staffed,” he said, adding that this was a result of budget cuts, among other things.
“We have been allocated R266 million to deal with our staffing, but unfortunately it will help only push take us from 39% to 42%. We will hiring 517 employees [who] will be sent to the front offices and 288 will be new immigration officers,” Motsoaledi said.