Home affairs sacks head of IT for gross negligence

Samuel Mungadze, itweb.co.za

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has fired Simphiwe Hlophe, chief director responsible for infrastructure management for information systems, for gross negligence and gross dereliction of duty.

Hlophe was responsible for information technology aspects that involve networking and IT capability, all of which are key drivers that enable the DHA to deliver services and maintain clean governance.

His sacking comes as the DHA has been making extensive moves to improve and enhance operational efficiencies.

Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced Hlophe’s dismissal yesterday, saying the department relies on a stable IT infrastructure platform, networks and operating systems to effectively perform its functions.

This is at the centre of Hlophe’s dismissal, as he was charged with “gross dereliction of duties or dereliction of duties in that routers and switches” were procured to enable services at the DHA, but remained in storage and were not deployed. Hlophe had reported they were being deployed.

In a statement, the DHA says: “The department has been frequently experiencing system instability, which has negatively impacted on frontline service delivery. The department’s service delivery charter depends on a stable IT infrastructure platform, networks and operating systems, to effectively perform its functions, rendering sustainable and reliable service capability to our frontline offices.

“The failure of a senior manager to oversee and execute on these functions is a serious misconduct, and cannot be tolerated.”

In addition, Hlophe faced other charges, ranging from “gross negligence or dereliction of duties in that he certified an invoice of the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) that included services not rendered and contravention of National Treasury regulations, to gross negligence (alternative negligence) in that he authorised other expenditure against a credit note issued by SITA.”

“We are on a firm path towards clean governance and improved service delivery. The responsibility for the performance of the department rests with all employees. Accountability for the performance of assigned responsibilities is absolutely critical,” says Motsoaledi.

Hlophe’s dismissal comes on the back of an accelerated drive by the minister to eradicate reputational damage caused by system downtime in the department.

To improve efficiency, the department has since partnered with banks, and the financial institutions have seconded specialist engineers to assist in stabilising the department’s network, as well as the installation of key IT infrastructure.

In May, minister Motsoaledi, speaking in Parliament, revealed SITA had committed to spend almost R1 billion on IT infrastructure to support the DHA and other departments.

At the DHA, the agency will spend R400 million to modernise the entire internet network in a bid to reduce long queues caused by system downtime.

The snaking queues have been a problem at the DHA for many years, and the minister says the department is making significant progress towards ensuring its front offices work properly.

The modernisation of the DHA network will be concluded in the third quarter of this financial year. SITA has already concluded the implementation of the software-defined network, which is expected to help increase the department’s bandwidth.

Motsoaledi notes SITA has now doubled its “internet capacity and introduced three failovers located in three cities: Tshwane, Cape Town and eThekwini. This will ensure that if any of the network is down, there will be two to support services.”