Friday, September 25, 2020

Immigration officers’ poor training, low morale undermine national security – report

Botswana may be losing the fight against illegal immigrants because senior officials at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIC) are diverting money intended for strengthening security at the borders to their own self development and training, at the expense of deserving junior Immigration officers ÔÇô the Auditor General has revealed.

It has also emerged that even in cases where such training was done, including both senior and general Immigration staff, no recorded account of the effect and difference made by such training has been produced.

The Auditor General, in his Performance Audit Report No. 9, 2008 on Management of Illegal Immigrants by the Department of Immigration, has expressed concern at this state of affairs.

“DIC is one of the Government Departments, which, at most, work with minimum experienced officers in terms of academic background, and who, upon entry, were offered 1-2 weeks on the job training, which would anyhow be considered inadequate,” he said.

In addition, the Immigration Officers’ capacity to discern fraudulent documents and ability to intercept the same for appropriate decisions was found wanting given that almost all officers, especially those at the borders, had no special or intensive training in the relevant field.

The AG lamented that this was so despite the fact that the International Law Enforcement Agency (ILEA) offered courses, such as Law Enforcement, Border control and Fraudulent Documents.

Instead, “the courses were only offered to Senior Officers who, at most, did not man the border counters,” queried the auditors.

To quantify the extent of the risk emanating from this attitude, it was stated that of the 12 borders that were audited, there were 98 members of staff, but only 6% of them had received the intensive training on documents inspection.

Although in order to justify the decision to prioritize Senior Officers for the training under discussion, the Department’s Training Officer had argued that it was a requirement of the Botswana Police Services that Senior Officers should attend those courses, the auditors shot down the argument.

“…this was not sufficient, considering the cases of forged documents that were identified on a daily basis,” dismissed the AG, adding that, “the lack of intensive training on this aspect would impede on the possibility of Immigration Officers to be able to recognize and intercept fraudulent documents.”

Consequently, it was indicated that the likelihood of migrants entering the country with false documents was highly accelerated.

Against this background, the AG cautioned that it was imperative that the capacity and capabilities of staff be given due attention to enable them to live up to the demands of their stipulated tasks.

However, the ability and commitment of Management of the DIC to apprehend the link between ensuring that junior immigration officers, especially those at the borders, get the appropriate training on the one hand and the impact of such training on individual officers’ (including Senior Officers) potential output as well as the guarantee to national security, on the other, seems to be in doubt.

For example, in response to the findings of the auditors, Management stated that Officers’ training was not only limited to the recognition of fraudulent documents as offered by the ILEA but rather diverse. They pointed out that this included training offered through Certificate in Administration and Management of Immigration Matters Course, which was specifically tailored for the Department.

In this context, the auditors, according to the Performance Audit Report, expressed the view that the Training and Development Division of the DIC has a responsibility to follow up on the performance of officers, whence an assessment of whether the training offered was indeed relevant would have helped establish whether there was any need to continue to train officers who did not man borders on skills relevant to border security.

To make matters worse, “There was neither in print instruction nor any evaluation system as to how these follow ups were to be actually done or how they would be accounted for,” posited the audit report, adding that the Division did not produce any reports since it was alleged that these follow ups were purely oral.

Whether this is a reflection or the gauge to determine the state the country’s national security is perhaps a matter for the experts to validate.

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