The Quality of Immigration and Citizenship Services in Namibia
Ndeyapo M. Nickanor
Series Editor: Jonathan Crush
Southern African Migration Project
Migration Policy Series No. 48
PLEASE NOTE: Readers are welcome to reproduce and reference this article as long as appropriate acknowledgments are given.
The Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration (MHAI) in
Namibia has sole responsibility for implementing and managing
migration policy and legislation; the registration of births,
deaths and marriages; and the issuing of identity documents,
passports and emergency travel documents. The Ministry also manages
visa and permanent and temporary residence applications and approves
In 2005, the Southern African Migration Project (SAMP) was asked
by the Ministry to conduct a systematic survey of the quality of services
offered to citizens and non-citizens (the Services Quality Survey or
SQS). The main objectives of the SQS were as follows:
To compare the opinions of officials about the level and quality of
services with those of the clients receiving these services;
To identify the type of problems and delays that occur in the
delivery of services in Namibia and why they occur;
To determine the extent to which the level and quality of services
provided meet the expectations of clients;
To develop a set of recommendations to improve the level and
quality of service delivery.
The SQS interviewed a total number of 13 officials and 322 clients.
Separate structured questionnaires were administered to officials and
clients. The interviews with the officials concentrated on their familiarity
with public service regulations, job satisfaction, knowledge of grievance
and disciplinary procedures, information on the MHAI and attitudes
towards the reporting of misconduct. The questionnaire for the clients
focused on their knowledge of the functions of the MHAI, the quality
of services and their experiences accessing these services. Interview sites
included regional offices, land borders and the major international airport.
Four research teams covered nine of the 13 regions in the country.
The major findings of the SQS in relation to the job satisfaction of
Ministry employees are as follows:
Officials are clearly better informed than clients about the role,
functions and range of services offered by the Ministry. Levels of
familiarity with core services were relatively high in both cases,
though it is surprising that not all officials knew about the full
range of responsibilities of the MHAI. Only about half of the officials
and 30% of its clients seemed to know about the Ministrys
role in granting Namibian citizenship. Other responsibilities about
which clients knew very little included registering marriages,
deporting undocumented migrants or processing refugee applications.
Less than a third of the officials knew about the Ministrys
role in the refugee protection process.
Ministry officials do not have sufficient knowledge of the key
pieces of legislation governing their Ministry: the Public Service
Act 13 of 1995 (a third were unfamiliar with this legislation); the
Immigration Act 7 of 1993 (again, a third were unfamiliar) and
the Refugees Act 2 of 1999 (two-thirds unfamiliar). Although
two thirds of the officials said they were acquainted with the
Public Service Act, the SQS showed that they were not conversant
with many of its basic service principles.
The SQS questioned officials about their familiarity with the
MHAIs Strategic Plan, Transformation Unit, IT Plan and
Employment Equity Plan. Only two thirds (64%) were aware of
the Strategic Plan. A smaller proportion was aware of the other
structures. Just 36% said that the Ministry had an employment
equity plan and only 30% were aware of the Transformation Unit
Nearly 60% of the officials had not attended any training programmes
or workshops to learn about the laws and regulations
governing the Public Service and/or the Ministry. Of the trained
officials, 96% stated that the training was useful/very useful in
helping them perform their duties.
Levels of job satisfaction amongst Ministry employees are relatively
high. At the same time, many officials were skeptical
about the fairness of decisions concerning promotions and salary
increases. Nearly 60% felt that they were unfair and had nothing
to do with rules and guidelines. Many officials were also skeptical
about their career path in the MHIA. While 56% said that they
had a strong career path, 39% disagreed.
Dissatisfaction with remuneration was the most cited impediment
to effective job performance (mentioned by 60% of officials).
Other frequently-cited complaints included work overload (49%),
poor working environment (41%), not enough computers (39%),
poor management (38%), not enough equipment/stationery
(35%) and little or no career mobility (33%). Red tape, gender
and racial discrimination were not seen as serious obstacles (4%,
6% and 9% respectively).
This report also examines client perceptions of service quality offered
by the Ministry and compared these with the perceptions of officials. The
major findings are as follows:
Overall, the Ministry is seen as being more efficient than it was
during the apartheid era. Around half strongly approved of the
way the MHAI had performed its mandate in the previous year
but as many as a third disapproved of the performance of the
Two-thirds of the clients were happy or satisfied with the level
of service they received at the office on the day of the interview.
More detailed analysis showed that these levels of satisfaction
extended to a whole variety of factors including office infrastructure,
quality and efficiency of service, and personal interactions
with MHAI officials. Some elements particularly the cost of
services and the wait times for documentation were seen as
more problematic. In general, there is a relatively consistent pattern
with two-thirds of clients happy and a third unhappy with
Officials clearly have a better perception of the quality of service
offered by them and their colleagues than do clients. On most
measures of service quality officials gave higher scores than their
clients. The difference was particularly marked with regard to the
demeanor and helpfulness of officials themselves.
Overall, both clients and officials displayed considerable disapproval
of behaviour that could be viewed as inappropriate, discriminatory
or corrupt. Officials consistently ranked such behaviour
as more deserving of punishment than clients, except on the
issue of acceptance of a gift in recognition of good work for a
service already rendered. The majority in both groups felt this
was an acceptable response to good service.
While there is a widespread media and public perception that
MHIA officials are corrupt, few of the clients interviewed in this
study said they had first-hand experience of corruption. The overwhelming
majority (90%) said they had never been put in such
a position. The remaining 1 0% who had been involved in such
a misdemeanor had paid a bribe to obtain a travel document, to
avoid punishment for overstaying visa, to avoid deportation or
repatriation, to obtain a work permit, obtain a residence permit
or to attain refugee status.
In contrast to the clients, a majority of officials (71%) reported
that they had witnessed a bribe being paid or solicited during the
year prior to the survey. At the same time, most officials (81%)
were adamant that they had not personally accepted a bribe. A
few officials reported that they had been silenced by their superiors
concerning the reporting of inappropriate or illegal activities
and 5% claimed that they had been asked by their superiors to
participate in illegal activities. In general, therefore, there seems
to be a major gap between public perceptions and actual levels of
corruption. However, it is possible that neither clients nor officials
were completely honest about this highly sensitive issue.
The results of the SQS in Namibia leads SAMP to make the following
On most measures, two-thirds of clients were satisfied with the
level of service provided. This means that there is still room for
improvement. Any government ministry, particularly one whose
primary role is customer service, should strive to achieve total
satisfaction. While customer dissatisfaction with services was
much lower than expected, there was more general concern with
certain key issues such as the physical infrastructure at some
offices and the delays experienced by clients in getting documentation.
These concerns require immediate attention;
Officials and clients have different opinions about the level and
quality of service offered by the MHAI. Officials clearly have
a more positive view than do clients of themselves and their
Ministry. This needs to be brought to the attention of all officials.
It is critical that employees of the service know that their clients
do not think as highly of the MHIA as they do. Otherwise complacency
is likely to set in.
It is encouraging that the majority of clients were relatively satisfied
with the level of personal service they received from individual
employees of the Ministry. This suggests that there is a
good service ethic amongst employees. On the other hand, it is
important to address the concerns of those clients who remain
dissatisfied with the level of personal service.
There is clearly a major gap between public perceptions and those
of these clients and officials on issues of integrity, misconduct and
corruption. The reasons for this gap need to be addressed. A service
ministry should not have the taint of any kind of scandal or
corruption attached to it. One hypothesis from this study might
be that the Ministry is being unfairly targeted by the media and
perhaps blowing isolated cases of corruption out of all proportion.
The only other explanation is that the media and public are
correct and that these SQS informants were not entirely honest
in their answers. The MHIA needs to have structures and procedures
in place to transparently and effectively deal with all cases
of wrong-doing; to facilitate identification by officials of corrupt
practices without fear of reprisal; to encourage the public to complain
and to deal effectively with such complaints.
Official knowledge and awareness of the legislation which governs
their own Ministry and the internal roles, regulations and
procedures of the Ministry is poor. There is an obvious need for
more training of officials along the lines of the Programme in
International Migration Law and Management International
instituted by SAMP in partnership with Wits University. This
course could be offered in Namibia to many officials at reasonable
Clients are not well informed about the range of services offered
by MHAI. Education could be provided in a number of ways; for
example, through newspapers, radio, posters and leaflets. In addition,
clients are not informed about the work of the departments
within the Ministry. No annual report is published and circulated
to clients to inform them how resources are used and how much
services cost, or to provide information on staffing issues, equipment
delivery, services and so on. The report should also include
how well the departments are performing, and whether the
Ministry has kept to its undertakings within established timelines.
Current negative media reporting on the delivery of services may
improve if the Ministry implements strategies to inform the public
more vigorously of the services offered and the rights of clients to
access these services. In other words, the Ministry has to be more
proactive in order for it to revive its reputation in the media.
Close This Window