Pretoria — The Department of Home Affairs is making significant progress in clearing permit backlogs, improving access to services and managing its finances.
Delivering her department's Budget Vote to the National Assembly in Parliament on Thursday, Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma reflected on some of the department's successes but also acknowledged areas that needed more work.
The minister said access to Home Affairs services had improved through the opening of four new offices in rural areas, the refurbishment of 19 offices during the 2011/12 financial year and the deployment of mobile offices in support of key government programmes.
A new visa and permitting regime was being developed, she added.
Progress was also being made in clearing backlogs and new applications for permits were being processed efficiently.
The department had acquired the funding to improve infrastructure at maritime border facilities and to make improvements at several border posts.
Dlamini Zuma said her department was committed to ensuring that it managed it finances appropriately and the results were already showing with the Auditor-General issuing an unqualified audit opinion on the department's finances - the first in the 16 years since democracy.
"...we are privileged to announce that all other statutory entities reporting to the department - the Independent Electoral Commission, the Film and Publication Board and Government Printing Works - have similarly achieved unqualified audit opinions for the 2010/2011 financial year... Working together, we will work towards the attainment of clean audits in the shortest possible time," said Dlamini Zuma.
The department was also working on the National Identity System that would replace the current civic and immigration identity systems.
"The National Identity System will enable us to digitally capture biometric and biographical details of all South Africans or foreign nationals, which will be stored in one integrated system. The system will be linked to systems for movement control, permitting as well as asylum seeker and refugee management," she said.
The department has already launched the Online Fingerprint Verification System, in partnership with South African Bank Risk Information Centre, which enables banks to access Home Affairs fingerprint system to verify the identity of their clients.
The minister acknowledged that duplicate IDs had caused "grief" to people, making it impossible for them to engage in business, financial and economic transactions, further their educational studies, as well as access social grants and other government services.
"We share in their pain and commit ourselves to ensure we can speedily address these challenges. We will do everything in our power to address the plight of these people," she said.
On the issue of immigration, the minister said government remained committed to ensuring that immigration is managed effectively, securely and in the best interests of the nation to advance economic, social and cultural development.
She stressed that respect for immigration laws would be enforced, within the laws of the country, while meeting international obligations.
Later this year, the department will gazette an immigration policy document that will present a set of proposals for discussion by stakeholders and the public.