The department of home affairs has come clean on information regarding the service-level agreement contained in the contract it has signed with visa application service provider VFS.
Among a raft of allegations were that Rajesh Gupta and Duduzane Zuma are shareholders in the company, and that VFS provided outsourced services that should be performed by departmental employees.
“The department of home affairs entered into a contract with VFS Global on 27 October 2010 for management of visa and permit applications intake at the South African Missions abroad. On 2 December 2013, the department entered into a similar contract with VFS for management of visa and permit applications intake in South Africa. The contract with VFS will expire on 31 December 2018,” said departmental spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete.
Tshwete told The Citizen in an emailed response that VFS was not entitled to any payments in terms of the contract and thus no monies were paid to the service provider since 2010.
“The service is rendered at no cost to the department. The appointed company invested in the project by securing all visa centres at their own expense. The technology has been deployed without home affairs being liable to its costs. The staff members of the company are also at the company’s expense.
“The company charges clients management fee and also what is due to the state. Money to the state is collected by the company electronically and paid to the national revenue account. The department receives regular reconciliation of received revenue. What companies charge to clients has been agreed between the department and VFS,” Tshwete said.
The department is satisfied that since the service provider was brought on board, “there has been a marked improvement on the delivery of performance targets”.
The department believes that in the last quarter of 2017/2018 financial year, “96% of permanent residence applications were adjudicated within eight months for applications collected within the country, 97.5% of business and general work visas were adjudicated within eight weeks”.
Speaking to The Citizen earlier today, director-general Mkuseli Apleni denied that the department had the capacity to provide the outsourced services, arguing if the department was burdened with the responsibility of receiving visa applications, that would likely affect the adjudication period timelines.
“The service that VFS provides is the management of application intake and handing over outcomes of visas on behalf of the department. This is an international practice in the world that aims to bring about efficiency in the visa application process.
“Countries such as the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ivory Coast and Ghana use similar services, but not necessarily the same service provider. Home affairs does not have adequate funding to capacitate front offices with staff, offices as well as equipment in order to provide effective and efficient services to the clients, hence this business partnership with VFS,” Tshwete explained.
Tshwete said this function was previously performed by regional offices with less capacity, which resulted in “incomplete applications, delayed capturing of applications, delayed capturing of outcomes and lack of uniformity of applications management throughout the offices”.
“The offshore contract was a closed bid process and the award was presented and approved by the Bid Adjudication Committee on 11 March 2010. The Chairperson of the Bid Adjudication Committee was the then Chief Financial Officer and current Director-General Mr. Mkuseli Apleni.
“The local service contract was an open bid process and the award was presented and approved by the Bid Adjudication Committee on 07 May 2013. The Chairperson of the Bid Adjudication Committee was the then Chief Financial Officer, Ms. Rudzani Rasikhinya,” Tshwete wrote.
On the contentious question of who really owns the company, the department pointed out “VFS Global is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kuoni Group, headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, whose principal owner is EQT, a leading global investment firm, headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden”.