The Home Affairs Minister has asked that we should clarify the matter relating to the contract the Department of Home Affairs had signed with VFS Global. This was after wild and baseless accusations were made last Friday on the occasion of the Home Affairs Budget Vote, in Cape Town.
In terms of the contract, VFS Global was to receive and manage visa and permit applications abroad and in South Africa on behalf of the Department, with the decision to approve or reject such applications still in the hands of the Department.
As previously announced, the contract was intended to strengthen the Department’s capacity to receive and manage visa and permit applications. The tendering processes were followed to the letter when the Department appointed VFS Global.
The Department went on tender in 2010. At the time, Minister Malusi Gigaba was not with the Department. That being said, we must make it very clear that our illustration of the Minister’s absence at the time is in no way to be perceived as the Department admitting to any irregularities on the part of the Minister’s predecessors.
The Department conducted itself in the best interest of the country and the clients and will continue to do so. The Department has made great improvements in services as a result of these interventions.
We wish to discourage baseless accusations that impact negatively on the Department’s integrity especially given the critical role of the Department.
It was the Department that appointed VFS Global in December 2010. The roll-out of the agreement with VFS was from 2011, long before the return of Minister Gigaba to Home Affairs. Minister Gigaba only came back in May 2014 when the contract in question was in place.
There was, therefore, no way that the Minister could have signed or influenced the contract, as claimed by the MP. Even before contracting, as a Department, we had piloted the concept with three other countries.
VFS had been in South Africa as back as 2005, rendering services to other countries.
This brings me to the issue of the receipt provided as evidence by the MP. This receipt was for a person travelling to Saudi Arabia, and therefore had nothing to do with us. We do not, and cannot, offer such a receipt as a country.
The state has mechanisms in place in the event that the MP concerned requires a copy of the contract, than go out of the way, uninformed, to make malicious and very reckless statements.
Be that as it may, in terms of the Public Finance Management Act, a Minister does not sign contracts, a Director-General does, on behalf of a government department.
Another matter brought into contention is the Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP). The ZSP was implemented by the Department of Home Affairs in December 2010. It was for a four-year period, ending December 2014. We have repeatedly and consistently been transparent on ZSP.
The allegation that we had cancelled ZSP is devoid of any truth. The ZSP had expired, and was not cancelled for any sinister purpose. The ZSP extension we later granted went to Cabinet for approval. The same process was followed also in regard of the Lesotho Special Permit (LSP), wherein Cabinet’s approval was sought. The same processes will also be followed for similar permits in the pipeline.
In respect of the 2014 Immigration Regulations, in 2011 the Department had approached Cabinet with amendments, for approval. These regulations were processed and duly signed before Minister Gigaba’s appointment into office.
The approach we took was informed by our commitment, as a Department, to improve efficiencies and turnaround time, including convenience for clients, through better queue management systems, with application forms filled online.
By contracting with VFS, we intended also to reduce possible acts of corruption associated with manual permit processing systems. We look at corruption in a very serious light, and are therefore deeply concerned when such grave matters of state, impacting even on national security, are turned into political gimmicks and point-scoring with no bases whatsoever on what is factual.
For the record, we take exception to the baseless accusation that Minister Gigaba or his predecessors engaged in any irregularity. The Minister also asked that we communicate his Office’s intention to write to the Speaker on the same matter. The Department has appealed to VFS Global to continue being transparent and they have agreed to share details of their company directorships.
It would shed more light to note that VFS offers services to other 50 government clients in 123 countries, including, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands and India.
Information on other countries using VFS services would probably assist in shedding light on this matter. Thank you.