The system is down — IT downtime hurting Home Affairs more than load-shedding

System downtime contributes more lost operating hours at Home Affairs offices than load-shedding.

This is according to home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi, who was responding to parliamentary questions from Democratic Alliance MP Adrian Roos.

DHA’s offices could not operate for 15,289 hours during the first quarter of the 2023/24 financial year — April to June 2023.

Of this, 8,672 hours (57%) were lost to system downtime, while DHA offices could not operate for 6,242 hours (41%) due to load-shedding.

Over the same period, protest action contributed 46 lost hours (0.3%), and offices had to shut down for 329 hours (2%) due to water outages.

Motsoaledi also provided uptime figures for the DHA’s civic services system hosted by the State Information Technology Agency. These were as follows:

Civic services system uptime
Month Reachability (network) Availability (power)
April 2023 87.68% 85.34%
May 2023 85.62% 82.95%
June 2023 94.51% 91.89%

Uptime at the DHA’s offices improved dramatically in June.

However, Motsoaledi also revealed in June 2023 that they had achieved 95% system uptime in the fourth quarter of the 2022/23 financial year — the period that runs from 1 January to 31 March 2023.

He said that all told, they had lost 13,416 hours across all branches during that quarter.

This was an impressive achievement, considering Home Affairs’ historical challenges with uptime.

Unfortunately, performance deteriorated dramatically in April and May. It appears to have rebounded in June.

State IT Agency (Sita) workers went on strike in October, and it remains to be seen what impact that had on Home Affairs’ uptime.

“The system is down” is a common phrase South Africans hear when visiting Department of Home Affairs (DHA) branches.

However, the department and Sita have been working to address the issues and make DHA services more accessible.

This included dismissing the DHA’s former Chief Director of Infrastructure Management for Information Systems for gross negligence and dereliction of his duties in August last year.

He was dismissed for:

  • Certifying a Sita invoice that included services not rendered
  • Authorising other expenditures against a credit note issued by Sita
  • Approving the procurement of routers and switches that remained in storage and weren’t deployed

Shortly before his dismissal, Motsoaledi announced that Sita would inject R400 million to update the DHA’s network and systems.

He acknowledged that system downtime significantly contributed to the long queues experienced at DHA branches and 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 during the department’s 2022 budget vote speech, shortly after he had slammed Sita, blaming it for the network and system problems.

Motsoaledi also threatened to look to the private sector for a solution.

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

It said the DHA paid for a bronze-tier product while wanting platinum-level service.

However, the DHA and Sita resolved their differences, and to address persistent downtime, Sita doubled the department’s Internet capacity and introduced three failovers in Tshwane, Cape Town, and eThekwini.

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

Now read: Transnet is not being privatised — Ramaphosa

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The system is down — IT downtime hurting Home Affairs more than load-shedding