South African lawmakers on Tuesday castigated the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) for its decision to grant VFS Global a further two years’ extension of their agreement to administer the issuing of visas.
The decision to extend the contract is in direct violation of the Public Finance Management Act and relevant regulations on procurement within competitive bidding processes, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs said in a statement.
The committee said it would write a letter to the Minister of Home Affairs, Siyabonga Cwele, to review the contract with the Dubai-based VFS Global.
VFS Global manages visa and passport issuance-related administrative and non-discretionary tasks for a number of governments.
Parliamentary spokesperson, Malatswa Molepo, said South African lawmakers would like to hear from Cwele about the possibility of going out on an open tender process.
Also his plans to build capacity within his department to quickly process visa applications.
The minister will be expected to respond to the committee within a week to ensure that the matter is dealt with before Parliament rises.
The initial contract was entered into in 2010 and nine years down the line, the department continues to renew a contract with only one company, said Molepo.
South African lawmakers have over the past year raised concerns about the VFS contract, calling the contract a systematic and deliberate creation to support a monopoly.
Monopoly, that is surely not good for broadening of economic participation and impede entry for smaller companies within the field.
“It is even more concerning that the department has extended the scope of work of VFS to establish services in countries it did not have previously,” said Committee Chairperson, Hlomani Chauke.
It also raises concerns about the legitimacy and bona fides of the contract, Chauke added.
The monopoly in the issuing of visas has drawn wide criticism from home and abroad.
Such monopoly has led to few processed visa applications in key tourism markets such as China, Nigeria and India, seriously impacting the numbers of tourists coming into South Africa.
The lack of capacity at the DHA to process visa applications is also a matter of concern as it hampers the actualisation of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s stated intention to grow South African economy through tourism, Chauke said.