“The system is down” — Home Affairs Minister ditching SITA for private sector

The Department of Home Affairs wants permission from National Treasury to use a private information technology (IT) provider for its systems, rather than having to rely on the State IT Agency (SITA).

This was the feedback from Aaron Motsoaledi, the Minister of Home Affairs, during a recent budget vote debate in the National Council of Provinces.

Responding to questions from DA MP Ricardo Mackenzie, Motsoaledi said that the IT services provided by SITA were the “original sin” of Home Affairs.

By comparing SITA’s services to the Christian doctrine of original sin, Motsoaledi implied that all of the department’s problems can be traced back to SITA.

Motsoaledi said that while other government departments may be somewhat affected by problems at SITA, it has a crippling impact on Home Affairs.

“We have done away with manual systems and introduced a live capture system about eight years ago,” the Minister stated.

He explained that Home Affairs is reliant on its IT system provider because the department’s staff is not made up of IT experts.

However, Motsoaledi said that they have not only identified the problem — they have also come up with a solution.

“We have actually identified why SARS doesn’t have systems down,” the Minister said.

“It’s because it has been exempted from getting these services through SITA and we are working with Treasury to do that.”

Motsoaledi said that they visited SITA’s headquarters in Centurion and met with all the IT companies in South Africa that are capable of providing the necessary services.

“IBM, EOH later replaced by Gijima, BBD and D, Shannon, you name them. We even called their CEOs to sit there and help us resolve this IT system — the original sin of Home Affairs.”

Mackenzie asked the Minister to provide concrete timelines that the department and SITA have agreed on to fix the IT system.

“This department is the most important department in the country. There’s nothing you can do without Home Affairs. If Home Affairs is fixed, South Africa will work,” Mackenzie stated.

“Honourable Mackenzie… I agree with you,” said Motsoaledi. “South Africa will only work — and it is working — because of Home Affairs.”

However, Motsoaledi was unable to immediately provide a timetable to address the ailing IT systems that Home Affairs relies on.

He said that he will provide the programme “in due course” and stated that it has been in development for a long time.

In response to the Minister’s statement, SITA has said that it is not responsible for Home Affairs’ troubles.

SITA explained that it is not involved in operating many of the troublesome services at Home Affairs, as SITA merely facilitated the procurement of these services from external providers.

It also said that Home Affairs has not upgraded its systems for years, and that Home Affairs has refused to pay for the service levels it needs.

Now read: How I got my new South African passport in a week

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“The system is down” — Home Affairs Minister ditching SITA for private sector