Cape Town – The Department of Home Affairs is considering extending operating hours and increasing the number of staff to render services, including addressing 81 650 birth registration backlogs.
This emerged on Tuesday when the department briefed the joint meeting of the portfolio committee on Home Affairs and the select committee on Security and Justice.
The department has since the lockdown ensured only employees performing essential services reported for work while others worked remotely from home to reduce the number of employees at work.
It has mainly provided critical services in the reissuing of birth certificates, registration and issuing of death certificates, and issuing of temporary identity certificates.
Briefing the meeting, Deputy Minister Njabulo Nzuza said the department has between March 27 and April 24 issued 31 585 death certificates, re-issued 4 731 birth certificates and 9 101 temporary identification certificates.
However, Nzuza said the lockdown had led to a shutdown of certain essential services.
“This has created a backlog that the department has to deal with. The department is anticipating a high demand for birth certificates in order to take advantage of social efforts announced by the president,” he said.
Nzuza told MPs there was a backlog of 81 650 in birth registrations to be dealt with while birth registrations continued as at when babies were born at 391 health facilities.
There is still 412 686 uncollected smart IDs with 308 164 being re-issue cards and 104 522 first issue IDs.
This, Nzuza said, meant the department would move from the four-hour shift to the normal eight-hour shift.
A third of the staff, 1 554, will now return to their offices to render services and deal with backlogs arising from the lockdown at their 412 offices.
“Floor managers will ensure that social distancing is adhered to as per the regulations. All staff members shall be provided with personal protection equipment,” he said.
“Queues will be separated according to services,” Nzuza said, adding communication with their clients and citizens would be undertaken via multi-media platforms.
“A full register of everybody who will be visiting the office must be kept at all times as it is now,” he said about measures to be taken to extend operating hours and staff complement.
On the backlogs in birth registrations, Nzuza also said all children born after February 26 were expected to visit the department for birth registration.
“They shall not be considered as late registration of births.”
Nzuza clarified that mothers did not have to come to the department offices with their babies to do birth registration other than documents from the health facilities.
Nzuza explained their offices would open from 8am until 4pm when Minister Aaron Motsoaledi made an announcement as opposed to the 10am until 2pm.
“There will be dedicated queues for death registration, birth registration, temporary identification certificates, re-issue of birth certificates and collection of IDs.”
Also briefing the meeting, acting director-general Jackson Mckay said they had provided adequate supplies of personal protective equipment for employees who work from the department offices as well as hand sanitizers and disinfectants.
He said virtual meetings were the order of the day.
Mckay also said the department funded the cost for PPEs from R22 million taken from savings made from travel and subsistence as well as accommodation budget in March and April as there was no additional funding.
Mckay also said R400 000 in donations and pledges was received for masks, disinfection chest pads and non-contact thermometers.
“If the budget is insufficient or should lockdown continue the same principle will apply for May 2020 and the proceeding outer months for as long this may be required.”
He said R8.3m has been spent to date.
McKay also said one staff member tested positive for Covid-19 in their Vryheid office in KwaZulu-Natal upon return from annual leave in April.
“The office closed for service and mobile unit was deployed and staffed with different team to ensure continuity of services.”
The other staff at the office were also tested and put on self isolation, and their results came negative .
Mckay said the office has since been reopened after being deep sanitised and disinfected.
He stated that all 35 clients who visited the office were traced and their results tested negative after undergoing tests.
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By Mayibongwe Maqhina