“The system is offline” — Home Affairs blame game must stop

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi must account for the quality of IT services procured by his department and how much money it has spent on maintaining a dysfunctional system over the years, DA MP Ricardo Mackenzie has stated.

This follows a series of finger-pointing from Home Affairs and the State Information Technology Agency (SITA).

According to Motsoaledi, the “original sin” of Home Affairs is its IT system, which is provided by SITA.

However, according to SITA, Home Affairs has refused to pay for the quality of service it requires in its IT systems.

“Last week, I engaged with Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on the poor state of service delivery and communications systems at Western Cape Home Affairs’ offices,” Mackenzie said.

“The Minister informed me that his Department (DHA) was working with National Treasury to be exempted from using SITA’s services, as the state agency was to blame for the poor and unreliable IT service. However, SITA has publicly shot back with claims that the DHA took a lower level service package and lacks the necessary infrastructure to run their IT system for Home Affairs.”

MyBroadband spoke to SITA boss Luvuyo Keyise last week about Motsoaledi’s statements, and he intimated that the Minister was mistaken on several points:

  • Home Affairs’ IT systems are not resilient because the department refuses to pay for high quality service — it is on a “Bronze package” rather than the “Platinum package” it actually needs.
  • SARS has not received an exemption from National Treasury, it was never subject to the SITA Act in the first place.
  • SARS procures IT services from SITA of its own free will.
  • SITA does not directly supply all of Home Affairs’ IT services, it helps the department procure from third-party suppliers.
  • Home Affairs has not upgraded its IT systems for years, despite being advised to do so.
  • Until recently, Home Affairs did not have a CIO to manage all of the IT services it procures.

Keyise said that Home Affairs blaming SITA for all of its problems feels like blackmail for not agreeing to some of the department’s procurement requests.

“The crux of the problem with Home Affairs is they want to get things for free and then blame SITA when it breaks,” Keyise stated.

Ricardo Mackenzie, DA Western Cape Spokesperson on Premier and Constitutional Affairs

Mackenzie said that these conflicting reports from Home Affairs and SITA need urgent clarification on where the fault actually lies with the IT system outage problems that have plagued the department for years.

“That is why I will write to Minister Motsoaledi to request full disclosure as to whether the current IT package is in fact an entry-level deal,” Mackenzie stated.

“We also need to know how much money has been spent on maintaining a dysfunctional system over the years, and why this has been tolerated given that DHA should have a sufficient IT system to manage South Africa’s population of over 60 million.”

If the accusations by SITA are true, then the DHA cannot shift the blame and must take responsibility for the slow service at their offices, stated Mackenzie.

“Also, should these offices lack the necessary infrastructure such as inadequate servers and a mere 2Mbps line as some reports have suggested, privatising their IT service provider will not solve the issues that the department faces,” he said.

“Residents should not have to give up an entire day to stand in a queue at Home Affair offices.”

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“The system is offline” — Home Affairs blame game must stop