Cape Town - Some of the backlogs in visa applications were caused by corruption and suspensions at the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), MPs were told by a department official, who presented higher figures than initially reported.
DHA acting deputy director-general for immigration services, Yusuf Simons, told the Home Affairs portfolio committee members that corruption in the department played a role in the backlog.
Simons also presented higher figures of the backlog than those DHA Minister Aaron Motsoaledi recently reported in a parliamentary response to DA MP Adrian Roos.
“This is a key matter that affected the turnaround times and our ability to finalise applications and probably contributed to the backlog ... (it’s) the findings from the Lubisi report on the irregularities and corrupt practices that happened with inland applications as well as applications at the missions,” Simons told MPs.
He said the department had, since the Lubisi report, implemented strict measures to curb corruption.
Simons said the capacity in the department’s permitting office was hamstrung by the suspensions of four officials, including a director, and the dismissal of two officials, including a chief director.
DHA Minister Aaron Motsoaledi in February last year appointed a panel, led by Dr Cassius Lubisi, against the backdrop of the questionable issuing of permanent residence permits to Malawian fraud-accused Shepherd Bushiri and members of his family.
The panel also found that 12 officials had a hand in irregularities in the awarding of some visas and permits.
Earlier this month, Motsoaledi told MPs his department is saddled with a visa backlog crisis of 40365 applications for permanent and temporary residence, attributing it to the Covid19 lock downs and labour shortages.
In the committee, Simons revised the number to 49 529 when the eight-month cycle of 9 145 applications is considered.
“For temporary residence, in order to have a definite count of the backlog, visa applications that were older than six weeks (were) 55 172 (from 2020 to 2022),” Simons said.
“Total applications received within eight weeks stand at 23 988 as of March 1, 2023.
“In total, including the backlog, the figure stands at 55 172+20 642 = 75 814.”