Archive from April, 2018

ACC to probe home affairs’ foreign bank accounts

ACC to probe home affairs’ foreign bank accounts
2018-04-16 ; The Namibian
THE Anti-Corruption Commission says it will conduct a thorough investigation into foreign bank accounts of the home affairs ministry into which money was paid, but remained unaccounted for.
This was announced after The Namibian reported last week that home affairs could not account for over N$16,7 million transferred into five bank accounts in foreign countries during the 2016/17 financial year.

The Namibian reported that ministry officials had been transferring funds into bank accounts abroad, meant for “the cost of living allowances” for attaches in five countries, but failed to account for such funds, saying they had no control over the accounts.

The funds were deposited into two bank accounts in China which had closing balances of over US$186 000 and CNY4,39 million (Chinese yuan), or a combined N$10,7 million.

Two accounts in Germany had a combined balance of over €350 000 or N$5,2 million at the end of the 2016/17 financial year, while another account in Nigeria had a balance of over 20 million naira, or N$683 000.

The ministry also could not account for about N$200 000 transferred into a bank account in South Africa.

Altogether, the money in the accounts amounted to over N$16,7 million of state funds which were unaccounted for at the end of the 2016/17 financial year.

During the same financial year, the ministry did not account for revenue received for visa and permit applications through its attachés in foreign countries.

The ministry’s audited report states that the funds received were deposited and kept in the attaches’ bank accounts, and did not reflect on the ministry’s books.

The money collected through visa and permit fees in Germany, Angola, South Africa, China and Nigeria amounted to about N$2,5 million.

Responding to the auditors’ comments, home affairs had indicated that the bank accounts were managed by the international relations ministry, which also failed to disclose them in their financial statements.

In a statement issued on Friday, the ACC said it would question the accounting officers of the two ministries to provide affidavits supported by documentary proof “on how the money in the alleged accounts was spent”.

“The ACC has decided to conduct a thorough investigation, and get to the bottom of these allegations,” the statement said.

The auditor general’s office will also be called to provide the ACC with documentary proof of requests made to the two ministries about the accounts.

“It is critical that those entrusted with public money must account for the expenditure of such funds. It is totally unacceptable that year after year, the auditor general reports on millions unaccounted for, and the responsible authorities seem not to take action against the responsible officials,” reads the ACC statement.

The ACC will also subpoena the chairperson of the parliamentary committee on public accounts, Mike Kavekotora, to explain whether the report was brought to his attention and what remedial action, if any, has been recommended.

Yesterday, ACC director general Paulus Noa said they would investigate the accounts because “it seems that no one wants to take responsibility between the two ministries”.

“These are state funds that were put somewhere, but it appears that no one wants to take responsibility,” Noa said. “That to us is like money was put into someone’s account, and they don’t want to explain. Remember that we are talking about public funds. We just want people to explain how the money deposited into those accounts was used,” he stated.

Budget and jobs growth would suffer if Australia cut immigration, Government report finds

Budget and jobs growth would suffer if Australia cut immigration, Government report finds
ABC News – 18 April 2018
Cutting Australia’s migration rate would cost the budget billions of dollars, lower living standards and reduce jobs growth, according to a report delivered to the Federal Government.
Key points:
• Joint Treasury-Home Affairs report states migrants deliver economic dividend to Australia, contributing nearly $10b to budget
• If migration rate was cut, report warns workforce would begin shrinking, resulting in lower GDP
• Only migrants found to cost budget over their lifetime are refugees, those on humanitarian visas
The paper, prepared by the departments of Treasury and Home Affairs, found the 2014/15 intake alone would contribute nearly $10 billion to the budget over the next 50 years.
“Migrants deliver an economic dividend for Australia due to current policy settings which favour migrants of working age who have skills to contribute to the economy,” the report states.
“This, in turn, increases Australia’s GDP and GDP per person, with positive flow-on effects for living standards.”
The release of the report coincides with a heated debate within the Coalition about Australia’s immigration rate and increasing community concerns about how quickly the country is growing.
Australia accepts up to 190,000 permanent migrants each year — most of them skilled — but former prime minister Tony Abbott wants that number halved to help lower the cost of living and reduce pressure on infrastructure.
The report acknowledges a bigger population brings challenges, including more congestion and demand for housing, and warns infrastructure investment must keep up with the growth.
But it also warned a reduction in immigration would shrink Australia’s workforce.
In turn, that would have far-reaching consequences for the economy, including “significantly lower[ing] GDP and GDP per person than would otherwise be the case”.
“Migration has been critical to growth in the Australian workforce in recent years,” it states.
According to the report, recent migrants account for 65 per cent of the new jobs that have been created in the past five years, which is significant given that Mr Abbott made a pledge in 2013 to create a million jobs in that time-frame.
Australia is on track to meet that million jobs target, but the report makes it clear that it is mainly because of high immigration.
Report debunks myth that migrants ‘steal’ Australian jobs
The report also counters claims that migrants are a drag on the welfare system, revealing migrants are likely to pay more in tax than they claim in social services.
And it found the existing labour market had been neither “helped nor harmed” by migration, debunking the myth that migrants “steal” Australians’ jobs.
“[Migrants] offset Australia’s ageing population, improve labour force participation and productivity, and help businesses to source skills that are difficult to develop at short notice,” it states.
Skilled migrants granted visas in 2014/15 are expected to make a net lifetime contribution of nearly $7 billion to the budget, while those on 457 visas are expected to contribute close to $4 billion.
The only migrants expected to cost the budget over their lifetime are those granted refugee or humanitarian visas.
While making the case for a big Australia, the report also carries a warning that governments need to spend more money maintaining existing infrastructure to keep up with the pace of growth.
“These pressures should not only be addressed by new infrastructure. They should also include better use of existing infrastructure,” the report states.

Rights groups slam Home Affairs

Rights groups slam Home Affairs
Cape Argus – 20 April 2018
“Instead of complying with the court order, (Home Affairs) is pretending to be compliant when they are not, and attempting to evade responsibility by blaming the Department of Public Works for their own inaction,” said Marike Keller from Sonke Gender Justice’s policy development and advocacy unit.
They have accused the department of failing to comply with the Supreme Court of Appeal order to open the centre.
“By failing to comply with these court orders, (Home Affairs) has not only shown a brazen disregard for South Africa’s judicial processes, which are the cornerstone of our democracy, but also its apathy towards the plight of asylum seekers and refugees,” Keller said.
The Supreme Court of Appeal found the decision to close the Cape Town RRO “substantively unlawful and irrational” and required the department to reopen and maintain a fully functional RRO in the Cape Town metropolitan area by March 31 and to provide monthly reports on its progress in complying with the order.
“Passing responsibility onto the Department of Public Works, and implicating them in the delay in Cape Town, shows the sheer lack of accountability and transparency on the part of the Department of Home Affairs. We reject this reasoning,” Sonke Gender Justice said.
In a statement released this week, Home Affairs said it was waiting on the Department of Public Works to provide suitable office accommodation.
“To this end, we have engaged the Department of Public Works who, in turn, have issued a procurement instruction to their regional office in Cape Town. Public Works have provided a project execution plan on April 6.”

Unlocking SA’s wine tourism potential

Unlocking SA’s wine tourism potential
16 Apr 2018 – Tourism Update
tourism in the Western Cape could further unlock its earning potential with information supplied by big data that analyses computationally, to reveal patterns, trends and associations.
Wine tourists in the Western Cape are increasingly opting for guided tours with a growing preference for tailor-made itineraries to suit their specific interests, says Margi Biggs, Convener of the annual Business of Wine and Food Tourism, set to take place on October 17 at Spier in Stellenbosch.
Sourcing her information from Wesgro’s recent Wine & Food Tourism Study, Biggs believes that greater insights into travellers’ needs will unlock further growth in this fast-expanding sector of South Africa’s travel industry.
“Wesgro research shows a year-on-year growth in wine tourism of 16% in 2017, thanks to the rising reputation of the Western Cape’s wines, the region’s increasingly innovative offerings, as well as its varied and exciting customised cellar door experiences.
“But as an industry, we’ve only tapped the surface. There is still so much more potential to be unleashed, particularly now that we have access to big data and the deep learning its analysis can bring. With more nuanced understanding of consumer preferences, their spending and other behavioural patterns, it becomes easier to address their needs and to do so in a way that is far more customised. I think we can expect the advent of big data to have a dramatic impact on our industry,” comments Biggs.
With this in mind, Biggs recently secured US-based big data Wine Specialist, Cathy Huyghe, as this year’s headline speaker for the Business of Wine and Food Tourism conference, making it Huyghe’s first visit to South Africa. Huyghe is also a Wine Columnist for Forbes and has written for the Harvard Business Review, is Co-Founder of Enolytics LLC, consults globally on big data to wine companies and is a Digital Media Specialist, having authored various wine books.
Other speakers at this year’s conference include Marisah Nieuwoudt, Wine Tourism Manager for VinPro, which represents 3 500 of SA’s wine producers, cellars and industry stakeholders; Brittany Hawkins, CEO of Explore Sideways, which focuses on immersive food, wine and cultural experiences for tourists in the Western Cape; and Spicer de Villiers, Owners of A Single Thread, a boutique communications agency that is active in the local wine industry.
The conference will also cover such topics as sustainability, food and dining trends, as well as innovative product development.
Trainees and professionals working in the Cape’s wine, food and tourism industries are urged to register their attendance for the conference. Early-bird registration is already open, and ends on June 30. An increased fee per delegate will apply thereafter.

What to do if you’re pulled over in a foreign country

What to do if you’re pulled over in a foreign country
2018-04-19 – Wheels 24
Whether it is for work or leisure, visiting a foreign country often literally calls for taking the road less travelled.
Many tourist destinations have adequate public transport and apps such as Uber and Lyft, have made getting from A to B that much easier abroad. Sometimes, travellers want a greater sense of freedom and will turn to rental cars to explore foreign cities.
Nothing ruins a business trip or a leisurely holiday like an unpleasant run-in with the law.
Before hopping behind the wheel in a new land it’s important to familiarise yourself with road rules and traffic laws of the country you’re visiting.
Get an International Driving Permit
Essentially, an international driving permit (IDP) allows you to drive (provided you have an SA driver’s licence) in the foreign country you have applied for.
It does not, however, allow you to drive anywhere in the world.
You still need your South African licence and will have to present both items if you are pulled over by authorities in a foreign country. Most, but not all, rental companies will ask for your IDP.
Advocate Jackie Nagtegaal, Law For All’s Managing Director, said: “A local driver’s licence might not be valid in all foreign territories even with an IDP.
“For example, your visa status could be a factor: Some countries might allow you to drive for up to 30 days, after which you will have to apply for a local licence.”
Do your homework: Research foreign traffic laws
This should be a crucial part of your planning but just in case it’s slipped your mind, add it to your to-do list before leaving SA; Not only do you have to be aware of basic traffic laws there are perhaps customs specific to the area you’re travelling to.
This goes above and beyond which side of the road to drive on and how road signs might differ; it also encompasses obtaining special rental insurance and conducting research on what you might need to have with you in the vehicle; spare tyre, traffic cone or even an extra pair of prescription spectacles.
Getting pulled over in a foreign country
Whether you’ve violated a traffic law or stopped as part of a routine roadblock, being pulled over in a foreign country can be particularly stressful.
Nagtegaal: “It’s always a good idea to stay in your vehicle, much like you would in South Africa. Some countries do allow motorists to exit their vehicles and approach the officers, but this is very uncommon.”
When an officer approaches your car, open the window, keep your hands on the steering wheel and await instruction.
Make sure you have the following on hand:
• Your valid South African driver’s licence.
• International Driving Permit (IDP) is required in that country.
• Vehicle registration document.
• Proof of car insurance.
• Passport and visa.
• Any relevant documents from the car rental company.
Remember, it is usually within your right to ask the traffic/police officer for his or her credentials. What’s more, it is recommended to have some tool (a book or an app) that can help with translation, as there may be a language barrier.
Dealing with traffic fines
It is best to handle traffic violations as quickly and efficiently as possible. Even if you’ve been fined for something “negligible”, deal with it immediately.
Some countries offer the option to “pay on the spot”, meaning you can take care of it (ie paying a fine) with the officer.
You can’t ignore or hide from the ticket; you could be stopped in the customs queue at the airport when trying to depart the country.
Nagtegaal said: “Depending on the country’s laws, even traffic fines can be regarded as a criminal matter, and you could find yourself dealing with a foreign criminal justice system.”

Illegals flock to home affairs

Illegals flock to home affairs
April 13, 2018 – Lowvelder

In South Africa, all roads lead to Mpumalanga for illegal immigrants. The Lowveld in particular has become the hot spot where mainly Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Somalis find their way to the local home affairs department to acquire illegal identification documents and South African passports.
According to law enforcers and intelligence sources, the well-established Pakistani underground networks of the terrorist organisation Sipah-e-Sahaba, a radical body regarded in Pakistan as a Sunni supremacist group at war with the minority Shia Muslim grouping in the country, facilitates the safe passage for new arrivals in South Africa.
“It is an extremely well-oiled network,” Lowvelder was told. “From the facilitators assisting all the new arrivals, to the network of lawyers on call 24 hours when arrests take place, to the ‘right’ state prosecutors to ‘handle’ such cases.”

On arrival they are picked up and taken to safe houses in Mbombela or Komatipoort, Lowvelder was told. There are also safe houses in Naas, on the road between Komatipoort and the Swaziland border.
A well-placed source described how the Managa road becomes a beehive of activity between 17:30 to 19:30 as taxis and other means of transport do business with illegal immigrants where they wait in the bushes for the scheduled pick-up of new border crossers to the safe houses in Naas. He added that many of them are former Somali soldiers.
The identities of two local Pakistanis who act as the go-between for the migrants and corrupt immigration officials, are known to the newspaper. In Mbombela the “facilitator” operates from the Nedbank Centre and in Komatipoort near the Total Garage.

The identities of the immigration officials are also known. One of them has been on holiday overseas on more than occasion.
It is believed that since a corrupt network of home affairs officials was exposed a few years ago, the focus turned to Mpumalanga as a safe haven to buy illegal documents.
Lowvelder approached Doris Chiloane, home affairs spokesman for comment on the allegations. None were forthcoming at the time of going to press.

High court ruling could unleash flood of new credit applications

High court ruling could unleash flood of new credit applications
Apr 10 2018 – Fin24

Johannesburg – The removal of a key lending criterium by a court last month is likely to open a flood of credit applications as consumers come under pressure from the tight economic environment, credit bureau TransUnion said on Monday.
In a case brought by leading retailers Truworths, Foschini and Mr Price, the Western Cape High Court last month ruled credit applicants would no longer be required to provide proof of income when applying for credit, as previously required by the National Credit Act.
TransUnion CEO Lee Naik stressed that the ruling does not scrap the entire National Credit Act regulation, which makes provision for responsible lending.
“The entire regulation has not been scrapped, and the onus is still on the lenders to assess the affordability of consumers,” he said.
The retailers brought the case against the minister of trade and industry and the National Credit Regulator, arguing that some of the requirements of the National Credit Act used to assess affordability, such as three months’ bank statements and payslips, discriminated against certain sections of society, particularly the unbanked and the self-employed.
“The judgment will potentially open up the market to the new entrants who were previously prevented by the regulations. As a result, lenders are likely to use that opportunity as they grow their business,” said Naik.
He cautioned the system could be open to abuse by over-indebted consumers, who could take up more debt to boost disposable income.
“We are a highly indebted society – almost 73% of our personal income goes towards servicing debt, while the real income growth is just at about 2%,” he said.
South African consumers are experiencing a tough economic climate, following the increase this month from 14% to 15% in value-added tax. Household income has also come under pressure from petrol price hikes.
First National Bank head of retail credit Hannalie Crous said the bank has not changed its requirements for credit extension following the court ruling.
“The bank has noted the judgment by the Western Cape High Court and will continue to monitor the developments on this matter,” she said.
The National Credit Regulator says it will consider appealing the judgment.