Senior immigration official charged in corruption probe

29 Dec 15

SOUTH AFRICA

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? A senior official of the Department of Home Affairs has been charged with corruption for allegedly accepting a police informant’s bribe to facilitate the processing of permits.

What does the change mean? Companies are reminded that corruption does exist and that cases processed unusually quickly and without reasonable explanation should be treated as suspicious and investigated.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: All immigration matters.
  • Impact on processing times: It is anticipated that the arrest of the official will temporarily prolong the current seasonal extended processing times in South Africa because officials in the agency may now take longer to adjudicate applications when compared to average processing times before the holiday break.
  • Business impact: Companies should be mindful of the potential for corruption in any immigration process and be aware that the arrest of the senior official in South Africa may cause processing delays in the short term.

Background: The arrest is the latest in the Department of Home Affairs’ ongoing anti-corruption operation, Bvisa Masina (“throw out the rot”). Launched in April 2015, this initiative is generally considered to have been a success. According to a statement by the Home Affairs Minister, there have been more than 30 arrests to date and multiple officials have been given prison sentences for various crimes, such as selling fraudulent documents and manipulating permit procedures.

In the most recent case, a special unit of the South African police force, working in cooperation with an anti-corruption unit of the DHA, arrested the senior DHA official on Dec. 17. She was subsequently charged with accepting a police informant’s bribe of 40,000 rand (about US$2,600) in connection with the processing of permits and has been released on bail pending a criminal court appearance.

BAL Analysis: The arrests and other successes of the Bvisa Masina operation are evidence of the DHA’s commitment to tackle both perceived and actual corruption in South African immigration processes and that the necessary resources have already been devoted to the cause. Employers should note the DHA’s policy of zero tolerance and its stated intention to deal decisively with fraud and corruption. In addition, employers should be mindful that the seniority of the DHA official most recently arrested may impact all applications, in at least the short-term, as immigration officials may now be inclined to take longer to adjudicate cases and to interpret rules and procedures more conservatively in order to avoid any possible appearance of irregularity.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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