The Department of Home Affairs is conducting an urgent investigation into the use of cell phones by staff members at the front desk of its Tongaat office in KwaZulu-Natal. This follows a social media post showing officials seemingly on their cell phones while on duty at the Tongaat office.
Home Affairs Acting Director-General Thulani Mavuso on Monday said he has instructed the provincial manager for KwaZulu-Natal to visit the office as part of the investigation. "The department will investigate the matter and as informed by the outcome, appropriate actions will be taken, which may include subjecting the implicated officials to internal disciplinary processes."
Mavuso said the department's policy is quite clear and states that the use of cellular phones by front office officials while performing their duties is prohibited, as it negatively impacts their service delivery.
"We cannot afford acts of this nature at a time when Home Affairs is battling to reduce unbearable queues to which citizens are subjected, thus the need for an investigation, which should really show our commitment to winning the war against queues at our offices," said Mavuso. The misconduct by the officials has been getting backlash from social media users as well as the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs. The committee has called for an "outright ban" on cell phone usage due to "numerous complaints it has received".
"It is unacceptable that the public spends excessive amounts of time at Home Affairs offices while officials spend a disproportionate amount of time busy with their cell phones. Officials are primarily employed to offer a service and the complaints point to dereliction of duty by some officials, yet they continue to draw a salary at the end of the month," committee chair Hlomani Chauke said.
Chauke said a guiding framework on the use of cell phones at front desks must be drafted and implemented across the country to ensure standardisation.The framework must also include guidelines for how officials can be contacted in cases of family emergencies. The committee is of the view that the key to resolving the long queues at Home Affairs offices is by ensuring that officials are at their desks, offering the services they are employed to carry out.
"We are, of course, cognisant that one of the major causes of long queues is the downtime caused by unreliable information and technology software, but professional service at the department must improve," said Chauke.Chauke emphasised that public service is based on adherence to Batho Pele principles, which call for high-quality service and courtesy, and that such measures must be put in place to encourage and where necessary, enforce adherence to these principles. At its first meeting of the year, the committee will invite the Home Affairs Minister and his team to give an update on measures implemented to resolve this challenge.
(With Inputs from South African Government Press Release)