The System Is Down — Home Affairs loses over 6,000 working hours in three months

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) missed out on 6,268 hours of trading in Q4 of the 2022/23 financial year due to Eskom’s rotational power cuts, Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has revealed.

Responding to questions from Democratic Alliance MP Adrian Roos, Motsoaledi said that despite Home Affairs’ challenges, it has managed to maintain system uptime at 95%.

The minister said office hours lost to load-shedding across all its branches during the quarter amounted to 6,268 — equivalent to just over 783.5 eight-hour working days.

Motsoaledi also revealed that system downtime across all branches totalled 13,416 hours. However, he added that the total percentage uptime for its systems sat at 95%.

He said Home Affairs had also lost office hours due to office closure, water outages, and “health facilities”.

However, these aspects contributed significantly less at 1,319; 278; and 202 hours, respectively.

An uptime of 95% is impressive for the DHA, especially considering its historical problems with uptime.

“The system is down” was a common phrase South Africans complained they heard when visiting Home Affairs branches.

However, the DHA and the State Information Technology Agency (Sita) are trying to address the issues at the department and expand access to its services.

In August 2022, the DHA dismissed Simphiwe Hlophe, its then-chief director for infrastructure management for information systems, for gross negligence and gross dereliction of duty.

Hlophe was responsible for aspects relating to network outages, system downtime, and IT capabilities.

He was charged with:

  • Gross negligence or dereliction of duties — Hlophe certified an invoice of Sita that included services not provided;
  • Contravention of National Treasury Regulation 8.2.1 — Hlophe’s authorisation of additional expenditure against a credit not entered by Sita was determined to be gross negligence; and,
  • Dereliction of duties — procured routers and switches that remained in storage and were never deployed.
Aaron Motsoaledi, minister of home affairs

Three months earlier, Motsoaledi announced that Sita would invest R400 million to revamp the DHA’s network.

He made the announcement during his 2022 budget vote speech and admitted that system downtime is a primary cause of long queues at DHA offices.

“It is painful and generates a lot of anger to visit a Home Affairs office very early in the morning and just stand there and wait for hours on end because all systems are down,” said Motsoaledi.

“It is very frustrating, to say the least.”

The announcement came just short of a year after the minister blamed Sita for its network and system problems and revealed that he was looking to the private sector for a solution.

However, Sita hit back at the department and said the DHA was spending the bare minimum on its IT services.

The IT agency said it was paying for a bronze-tier product and expecting platinum-level service.

The department and Sita have since made peace and are working together to solve Home Affairs’ problems.

Part of this included Sita doubling the DHA’s Internet capacity and adding three failovers in Tshwane (Pretoria), eThekwini (Durban), and Cape Town.

“This will ensure that if any of the network is down, there will be two to support our services,” the minister said.

Sita also implemented a software-defined network for Home Affairs, which promises to boost bandwidth to their applications, and finalised its cybersecurity procurement plan for the DHA’s IT infrastructure.

Now read: We tested driver’s licence and home affairs office phone numbers — not one call was answered

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The System Is Down — Home Affairs loses over 6,000 working hours in three months