Home Affairs fibs about passports


It has emerged that the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has been less than truthful about clearing its passport production backlog and is still battling to improve its turnaround times.

This is despite previous assurances by the department that it had solved all IT-related problems and returned to its normal production levels.

An internal memo, obtained by ITWeb, written by acting deputy director-general for civic services at the DHA, Vusimuzi Mkhize, reveals that 45% of the passport production cases are still outstanding.

The cases are for the period January to June 2009 and are listed as still outstanding and to be resolved. Offices around the country were given until yesterday to resolve all outstanding cases and recapture cases.

Earlier this month, the DHA said it had cleared its passport backlog and passport production levels had returned to normal. This followed promises made by minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma that all passport problems would be resolved by July.
“It is disappointing that several offices have resolved very low percentages of the outstanding cases. In many instances, offices have more than 50% of their cases still outstanding,” Mkhize states in the circular.

The memo reveals that a new report will be drawn up detailing outstanding cases per office. Individual offices, which do not comply, would then be required to give a detailed report stating their reasons for non-compliance.

Staff incompetence

The department implemented a new passport system to replace the outdated printing system that had become dysfunctional. The new passport printing machine was commissioned on 8 April to issue passports with high-security features.

However, in May, the department released a statement saying it was experiencing IT-related problems in achieving the required passport output. At the time, Dlamini-Zuma promised there would be no backlog by the end of July, and that the department “would be back to our normal flow”.

Earlier this month, department spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa stated the backlog had been cleared and passport production had returned to its previous three-week turnaround times.

The department previously stated a team of technical engineers and IT specialists had been working to resolve the glitches in the interface between the new passport production system and the department’s data capturing system. Despite this, many offices around the country are still battling backlogs.

Mamoepa refused to comment on the memo, or explain why he had earlier stated the passport problems had been resolved. He referred all queries to Mkhize, who was not available for comment at the time of publication.

Extensive backlogs

The minister previously blamed problems in the department on staff incompetence, saying “tardiness” had caused the system delays and resulted in the backlog. Mkhize notes that on 22 July, offices were instructed to recapture outstanding passports.

The circular indicates that several offices still have 100% of their cases outstanding. Of the 137 Home Affairs offices listed, 57 offices had over 50% of their cases still outstanding. Estcourt, in KwaZulu-Natal; Malamulele and Mapulaneng, in Limpopo; Mkobolo and Mdutjana, in Mpumalanga; Oudtshoorn, in the Western Cape; Koffiefontein, in the Free State, and Bizana, Burgersdorp, Mt Frere and Lusikisiki are some of the offices where 100% of cases are still outstanding.

Other areas also reported high cases of outstanding passports. Mbazwana reported 95% of its cases outstanding, with cases pending in Hluhluwe listed at 96%. Kempton Park has 71% cases outstanding and Soshanguve reported 76% still outstanding.
Pic: SA identity documents (ID)