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Home affairs may ban its workers’ cellphones in bid to improve service

2019-01-14 13:01

Home affairs employees could be required to give up their cellphones while at work as part of a drive to improve the quality and speed of service delivery at these offices.

This is according to a proposal from the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, Hlomani Chauke, in response to numerous complaints the committee received from the public about delays at home affairs offices.

Chauke has urged the department to consider an outright ban on cellphones for its frontline staff during working hours, and has invited Minister Blade Nzimande to appear before the committee and update it on the measures he is putting in place regarding the levels of service at the department’s offices and implementing of the cellphone ban.

“It is unacceptable that the public spend excessive amounts of time at home affairs offices, while officials spend a disproportionate amount of time busy with their cellphones. 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,” Chauke said.

According to Chauke, this behaviour by home affairs officials has been witnessed at ports of entry and gives a bad impression to visitors when they arrive in the country.

“This is more concerning because the president [Cyril Ramaphosa] has anchored his economic growth drive on tourism, which will be undermined by poor service.”

Chauke called for the drafting of a guiding framework on the use of cellphones at front desks to ensure standardisation. The framework should also include guidelines for how officials can be contacted in cases of family emergencies.

“One of the keys 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 do.

“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,” Chauke said.

“Public service is based on adherence to Batho Pele principles, which call for high quality service and courtesy. As such, measures must be put in place to encourage and, where necessary, enforce adherence to these principles,” he said.

At its first meeting of the year, the committee will invite the minister and the acting director-general to give an update on measures implemented to resolve this challenge.

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November 10 2019