Gigaba cracks the whip

2016-10-24 12:17
Minister Malusi Gigaba (far right) observes operations at the inquiries desk at the Pietermaritzburg Home Affairs office on Saturday.

Minister Malusi Gigaba (far right) observes operations at the inquiries desk at the Pietermaritzburg Home Affairs office on Saturday. (Thabang Mathebula)

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Pietermaritzburg's Home Affairs office has been deemed one of the worst service points in the country by the national minister, Malusi Gigaba.

Speaking during a “surprise” visit to the city’s Home Affairs office on Saturday, the minister promised immediate action would be taken to improve things.

His unannounced visit was prompted, he said, by comments on social media that were posted by disgruntled members of the public complaining about poor service.

He told The Witness that social media sites have become an important source of information and that when the negative comments reached his ears he came to see for himself the reported dilemmas facing the public in Pietermaritzburg.

Gigaba said his visit was prompted by the many serious complaints about the alleged dysfunctionality of the office, which he had received through social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

His initial response to the reports was to send a delegation of officials from his head office to observe the situation before he came personally.

His conclusion was that the Pietermaritzburg service point was facing a serious maladministration crisis. He added that management is to be held accountable.

Despite service appearing to operate smoothly on the day of his surprise visit, Gigaba was not convinced.

“If you look at how the office is at the moment you would be led to believe that it is working well, but that is only because I’m here,” he said.

“If I was to stand here myself and assess what I have observed [today], I would go away saying everything is hunky dory and the office is functioning well and everybody is focused on their task.

“But what happens when I’m not here is shocking.”

Gigaba based this on the report-back he received from his officials.

He said other Home Affairs branches in the country operate efficiently “regardless of whether the minister is paying a surprise visit or not and the people are happy with the service”.

But in Pietermaritzburg he was critical of the management’s performance.

He said it was clear that they are not properly equipped to manage operations.

The long queues that were apparent were unnecessary as they could be better managed.

He said for example, there was only one inquiries desk at the Pietermaritzburg offices but if there were two, the queue would move quicker.

“If you look at this office, we have many free desks. We have space inside and a lot of people standing outside. That is due to a failure of management,” he said.

The minister said he had been immediately struck by the long queue that greeted him as he got out of his car and said this was “worrying”.

Pietermaritzburg is a big city and has only a single service point to accommodate everyone within its radius. This is one of the reasons for the queues that develop, he said.

He also pointed out that another problem derives from the low budget his department has received.

The department is underfunded therefore it currently does not have sufficient resources for additional offices or staff.

However, the minister was adamant that these challenges will be better managed by the time the department officially implements plans for online applications through banks.

Mobile offices, which are also expected to be a game-changer in providing a more efficient service, will benefit schools and rural areas far from the city.

Gigaba said he had recently asked the provincial manager to convene a meeting with office managers from all over the province to deliberate on various issues with them.

The managers will be able to discuss the specific challenges that they each experience and propose solutions so they can provide better service to the public.

“Our operational management is currently failing. It is not at the level we need to provide a quality service to our clients,” he said.

Above everything, Gigaba said the failure of operational management tops the list among other critical issues faced by the department and will be dealt with immediately through training.

He said changes cannot happen overnight but promised that some improvements will be noticed by the end of this year.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  home affairs

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