Johannesburg – The Department of Home Affairs has dismissed allegations that its contract with Visa Facilitation Service (VFS) Global might have been unduly influenced to benefit certain individuals.
The department addressed the media on Monday after allegations that a South African company, Islandsite Investments (whose directors have been linked to the Gupta family), is linked to VFS Global.
VFS Global, which charges administrative fees for its services, is an international outsourcing and technology service provider for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide. It has over 50 government clients in 123 countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands and India.
It is contracted by the Department of Home Affairs to automate and run the application process, including managing the call centre and facilitation centres spread across South Africa’s nine provinces as part of government’s efforts to strengthen the department’s capacity.
Although VFS Global is responsible for receiving and managing visa and permit applications, the decision to approve or reject applications still lies with the Department of Home Affairs.
On Monday, Home Affairs Director General Mkuseli Apleni labelled the allegations as “wild and baseless”, as the department’s appointment of VFS Global dates back to 2010.
“The department went on a tender in 2010. At the time, Minister Malusi Gigaba was not with the department. That being said, we must make it clear that our illustration of the Minister’s absence at the time is in no way to be perceived as the department admitting to any irregularities on the Minister’s predecessors,” Apleni said.
Apleni said that in terms of the Public Finance Management Act, a Minister does not sign contracts but a Director General does.
“We wish to discourage baseless accusations that impact negatively on the department’s integrity, especially given the critical role of the department.”
Apleni said the documentation at his disposal shows no link between VSF Global and Islandsite Investments. He said the department can also not dictate to companies that do business with government who they partner with abroad.
VFS Global Chief Operating Officer Jiten Vyas said VFS worked with a shelf company called Islandsite 309, which is not linked to the Gupta family. The two companies, he said, share similar names but are different.