New minister planning to digitise home affairs, root out corruption

Cape Town - New Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize says her department is in need of a much-needed digital overhaul to help speed up applications and root out corrupt practices.

Mkhize, who replaced Malusi Gigaba in President Jacob Zuma's mass Cabinet reshuffle on March 31, told News24 that her department was bogged down by its antiquated systems.

Major problems included slow timelines for processing documents and a system that is too reliant on paper, she said on Tuesday.

"If people do not get their documents on time, the temptation is to think: 'Maybe there is something else I can do to get my documents.'

"As long as we don't adhere to any timelines, the old culture and malpractices will persist, and will undermine the repositioned [Department of Home Affairs]."

She said she hoped the digitisation of the system would remove the temptation for both citizens and staff to engage in bribery or other forms of corruption.

The department also hoped to have an implementation plan for new IT infrastructure ready by the time the 2018/19 budget is released in 2018.

The turnaround project would be slow, but "is turning", she said.

Leadership training for staff

Mkhize said she had visited various home affairs centres around the country over the Easter weekend.

She said her initial impression was that the department had to tighten mandatory services, such as registration of passports and identity documents.

Problems at one of the centres in Randburg were indicative of the general challenges across the board at the country's centres.

"People in the area were feeling stressed over the number of visits they have to make to the centre before their request is processed.

"Most people in those areas though can work online, and it's possible to even look at making applications online compulsory."

She said a new system would have to encourage people to apply for their documents online, and make them appreciate the value of technology.

The department would also start training its staff in "being leaders" in the community, to curb the temptation to "sell citizenship".

Mkhize said she would also ask her fellow ministers in the security cluster to start clamping down on illegality at home affairs centres.

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