The dysfunctional state of ICT systems at the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is a major contributor to the organisation's poor service delivery record and reputation of corruption.
That's according to DHA director general Mavuso Msimang, who says "IT infrastructure is not just dysfunctional, it's decadent".
Some of the other problems plaguing the department include poorly managed service level agreements, changes in leadership and a high staff attrition rate. "We are not an employer of choice," he says.
In an attempt to make some order of the chaos, the department has embarked on two simultaneous initiatives.
The first is the often-touted "Who am I Online" project and the second a strategic transformation project under the auspices of consultant FeverTree.
The ultimate goal is to inspire confidence in the department, he says, and areas of policy and strategy have already received attention.
To help it achieve its goal of a modern, efficient and cost-effective operation, the department has put in place its Turnaround Programme transformation project.
It will address a number of issues, including service delivery, which aims to align processes that are currently cumbersome for citizens.
The initiative is also addressing corruption, brought about by poor management and leadship coupled with "an almost total aversion to IT".
Financial management and controls will also come under the spotlight.
The first phase of the programme, aimed at stabilising systems and defining a roadmap, ended in December last year. In addition, a number of quick-win projects were undertaken, which helped to boost morale, says Msimang.
These include a track-and-trace project; a successful call centre which has helped to reduce queues by up to 40%; and a reduction in the time to process and ID book from 137 days to less than 60 days.
Currently, there are another 56 projects underway.
"We are an information-driven organisation," says Msimang. "We produce documents that cannot be produced without recourse to IT,"
There are a number of technical challenges facing the department, he adds, including the fact that the current technology is not stable, while the architecture is silo-based.
Much of the legacy technology will have to remain in place for the next two to three years, he adds, while a migration to new systems takes place.
In addition, the current network is outdated and the department runs a multiplicity of systems. And management of service level agreements has been poor in the past.
Areas the require immediate focus, says Msimang, is to stabilise the systems, address the skills gaps, implement a service management framework and take cognisance of new directions in technology.
"Technology at DHA is key," he says. "We are not going to achieve any of this without technology."
A lack of skilled resources is a major challenge.