A lack of backup network links and outdated equipment are the real reasons Home Affairs branches’ systems are often hit by long downtime.
This is according to Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Adrian Roos, who welcomed the support of communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshaveni in the DA’s call to solve the issues causing Home Affairs systems from going offline.
This comes after the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee meeting on Tuesday to review progress on addressing the scourge of long queues outside Home Affairs offices due to delays in bringing systems back online.
According to the DA, it was alarming that only 35 out of 691 Home Affairs branches had a backup link. Home Affairs was the only major government department without dual communication links to all its offices.
“This means that if one form of network goes down, then the system cannot be accessed,” Roos said.
Roos highlighted a report served before the committee showed 90% of incidents of Home Affairs systems downtime was caused by issues inside Home Affairs offices, due to 88% of network equipment being obsolete.
The DA blasted Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi for failing to act since being appointed in 2019.
The party added that Ntshaveni had challenged Motsoaledi to match the communications department’s significant investment in the State Information Technology Agency (Sita) network with investment in its own Home Affairs network to resolve the “system offline” issue.
A joint Department of Communications and Home Affairs plan is expected to be tabled before the end of the year.
Motsoaledi previously pinned the blame for the state of Home Affairs’ systems on Sita.
He substantiated this claim by saying that Sars rarely experienced downtime because it procured its services from private companies, which government departments were not allowed to do.
Sita boss Luvuyo Keyise hit back, pointing out that Home Affairs had bought the cheapest possible IT services with the lowest service level agreements, which led to prolonged downtime.
“They buy a bronze service, which offers a 16 business hours turnaround time on issues,” explained Keyise.
The bronze service used by many of Home Affairs offices provides only a single 2Mbps copper-based ADSL connection with no backup in place.
Keyise also pointed out that Sars was indeed buying IT services from Sita.
Sita wants Home Affairs to consider upgrading to a platinum-tier service to give the department the redundancy it requires and a far more stringent service-level agreement.
Keyise said that, with a platinum service, Sita or the designated service provider must resolve problems within an hour.
However, due to the redundancies, the service problems that come with any outage is usually mitigated within minutes.
Roos said the potential revenue lost every time a Home Affairs office’s system is offline would be more than enough to cover the costs of upgrading devices and network links.
“Should finance not be immediately available, there must at least be a phased roll-out,” Roos stated.