Tag Archive | DHA

Medicinal use of cannabis makes progress

Medical Innovation Bill and cannabis

..sent to clients 18 Dec… Dr Narend Singh who took over the tabling of the Private Members’ Medical Innovation Bill from the late Dr Mario Ambrosini, said that he was so impressed by the progress of the Department of Health (DHA) in their support of the use of cannabis for medical purposes that he could see the possibility arising where he could withdraw his Members’ Bill in favour of broader legislation tabled by the Minister of Health.

He said “there was light at the end of the tunnel” and he himself was on a “high” to learn from Dr Joey Gouws, in charge of regulatory and legislative enforcement at DHA, that regulations on the growing of cannabis, manufacture, dispensing and medical use for medicinal purposes could be in place by the end of 2017 including registration processes and classification systems.

Holistic approach

Dr Gouws was briefing the Parliamentary Portfolio on Health on progress towards the commencement of such a programme and which not only covered the medical use of cannabis as proposed in the Medical Innovation Bill but covered research, registration, manufacture and the scheduling of substances.    Separate legislation would be in parallel amending such Acts as the Drugs and Drugs Trafficking Act.

Regulations were a draft form stage in authorising permits for use by practitioners, analysts, researchers or veterinarians.      In fact, said the DHA team presenting the update to parliamentarians, it might be possible to see certain herbal products with limited THC levels available within three months.

 Worldwide

Dr Gouws said that in the United Kingdom similar legislation, to be enacted, provided for innovation in medical treatment and allowed medical doctors to depart from medical treatments for a condition but the UK Bill did not specially address the use of cannabis. In South Africa, it will be allowed for under specific prescribed conditions for the treatment of certain medical conditions and for education, research and analysis.  Similar legislation in Australia and Canada had been studied.

Patients that are proposed for eligibility are those with severe pain, nausea, vomiting or wasting arising from cancer and HIV/AIDS, including treatment. Muscle spasms and severe pain associated with multiple sclerosis and seizures from epilepsy where other treatment options have failed or have intolerable side effects. Severe chronic pain is included as part of the proposals for indications.

Crop trials completed

The Department of Agriculture, the DHA team said, has justMedicines Control South Africa forwarded the outcome of cultivation trials at four agricultural research facilities jointly overseen by both departments. This would now be disseminated and assessed, which results would form part of the ongoing research by the Medical Research Council and other academic research centres involved in the future clinical use of cannabis.

Currently, cannabis is listed as a Schedule 7 prohibited substance but regulations will shift this towards Schedules 3-6 which are prescription-only medicines with authorised prescribers.   Scheduling decisions involve levels of toxicity and safety; the proposed indication for a substance; the need for medical diagnosis before prescribing; the potential for dependence, abuse and misuse and access disciplines.

Certain cannabis products are prescribed at present but unregulated illegal herbal cannabis, Dr Gouws said, which is grown incorrectly and bought from the black market will have unknown concentrations of THC’s and cannabinoid concentrations combined with potentially harmful ingredients.   Cannabinoid drugs currently used are Dronabinal for loss of appetite during severe illnesses, Nabilone for nausea under similar conditions and Sativex for spasticity.

Conditions of use

If legalised, it will be proposed that objective evidence to support the proposed use of cannabinoids in whatever regulated form must be provided; the manner and duration of treatment provided; a patient must be monitored to ensure efficacy; the treatment outcome reported upon; the physician involved must be a specialist and informed consent by the patient or legal representative obtained.

In questioning the DHA, parliamentarians were particularly concerned that appropriate measures amending the Drugs and Drugs Trafficking Act, the criminal Procedure Act and the Medicines and Related Substances Act were undertaken. One MP remarked that there must be no question of unintended consequences with law enforcement processes in order that criminal procedures under certain circumstances involving cultivation, marketing, administering and research can be clearly separated and easily understood by the South African Police Service.

Dr Joey Gouws said that this matter had already been investigated and the issues involved were with the State Law Advisor at this very moment. It appeared that they were satisfied. The framework for medical use and research had also been submitted, which also included the licensing of growers using controlled cultivation methods for medical, scientific and research purposes. There were various cultivars of cannabis which had different medicinal properties, she said.

Quality controls

The framework being worked to by DHA also includes reaching a standardised, quality assured product for medical use indications, bearing in mind that clinical decision-making in terms of Section 22A(9)(ii) and Section 21 of the Medicines Act must be made to the scheduling of products, Dr Gouws said.

For a while, Dr Joey Gouws said, cannabis as a medicinal drug for pain may remain as a Section 21 drug as things exist until all regulations were in place and registration and classification complete, so that the use could have a controlled start.  Herbal classifications may be allowed far earlier.

ends

 

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Home Affairs gets tough on expired visas

Fines for expired visas not working…

sent to clients 21 Jan…  Now that Parliament has resumed it will not be long before for the Portfolio Committee on Homevisa rules Affairs  considers public comment and input on amendments to the Immigration Act re-defining what the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) terms as “inadequate sanction on foreign persons who remain in South Africa after their visas have expired”.

The Committee is responding to the fact that it is the Minister’s opinion that fines on foreigners who overstay their welcome were not serving as a sufficient deterrent to cease the regular practice of non-residents to continue their stay beyond the expiry date of their visa.

Troublesome clause

Section 30 of the 2002 Immigration Act has already been amended a couple of times regarding either the wording itself, which has not stood up in court, or, in the opinion of the DHA is now insufficient in itself as a deterrent to the practice.

The wording of the last amendment had led to various interpretations and to quote the government gazette on the issue, “some holding the view that a foreigner must overstay a number of times to be declared undesirable while others hold the view that one instance of overstaying would result in a declaration of undesirable.”

Another way

visa with handThe issue has now been approached in a different manner, which as far as can be established would deny the holder ever returning to SA unless agreed to by the Minister. The proposed changes amend the anchor Act so that foreigners who overstay after the expiry of their visas do not qualify for a port of entry visa, a visa, admission into South Africa or a permanent resident permit during the relevant prescribed period.

This would seem to establish that the offending foreigner has no status as a visa holder at all when it expires and that person immediately becomes an undesirable entrant by definition as any conditions of entry no longer apply. The implications of being declared an undesirable entrant under these circumstances will be debated.

Written comment expired

Once any comments are received, such will be part of a debate as to whether the amending Bill should be accepted as it stands, any amendments agreed upon made, voted upon and passed to the National Assembly for “reading”. Written comment addressed to Parliament was stated as being until 20 January 2016. Whether any hearings were agreed upon is awaited.
Previous articles on category subject
Home Affairs gives reasons for visa changes – ParlyReportSA
Home Affairs fails on most targets – ParlyReportSA

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Smart card ID upgrade for South Africa

Smart card ID trials with banks

Despite a highly upbeat presentation by the department of home affairs (DHA) on the position with regard to the issuance of a smart card ID card to all citizens of South Africa,  the actual final implementation of the full system using bank premises for issuance would still seem time away.

DHA said that in all, the new process involved the replacement of some 38m ID books involving a further 70 DHA offices or “booths” being created throughout the country which will also process new passports.

However, said DHA, to speed up the process; create greater access to the Smart Card issuance: reduce queues and, importantly, to reduce the whole timeline of eliminating the old bar-coded system, DHA was now working with the banking world with pilot propositions based on using the outreach of banks as well, in order to reach a greater proportion of the general public and speed up the process.

Payment and issuance at bank

So far, MOUs had been signed with FNB and Standard Bank to set up pilot “booths” at a number of trial bank locations in order to study the options and strategies to involve banks with the issuance of cards and possibly payment by swipe. Studies were also being conducted with the SA Post Office (SAPO).

DHA said the consideration of SAPO had arisen because of their “large footprint” in rural areas and, together with an evaluation with trials at the two banking pilots, the entire IT system developed by DHA for their own 407 outlets, would be tested, adapted and fine-tuned. National treasury would then be approached on the additional costs of including the four private sector banks and SAPO.

DHA’s own system in hand

The budget for DHA to handle the system alone and by itself was R120m.   Contracts to card makers had been finalised in terms of a highly satisfactory and approved tender process.

MOUs with Nedbank and ABSA were now also being initiated, as an extension of the arrangements with the first two banks mentioned, in order to then involve all four major banking groups in South Africa to widen the whole process, the department said.

The matters being investigated at present were the entire security risk of such an operation, this being paramount to DHA; the possibility of online payment for application of documents produced; fingerprint and photos on site (an essential if the documents were to be collected later from the same location); and return of revenue and reconciliation of cash with DHA.

First and second class

DHA told parliamentarians that citizens would therefore have a choice between the DHA option, for which an ID would probably cost in the region of R140 and a passport R800, or at banks where no doubt a premium would have to be charged worked out after the pilot scheme was found to be workable or not.

Under questioning, particularly led by ANC chairperson Buoang Mashile, DA’s Mohammed Hoosen and ANC’s Bonsile Nesi, extreme circumspection was expressed on the involvement of SAPO ; the quality of its staff to handle highly sensitive and personal information; and the fact that some SAPO outlets only had two staff members in small stations and rural outlets.  The recent SAPO strikes, where no mail was delivered for three months, added to their disquiet

DHA responded that they were highly conscious of this and a decision to involve SAPO was yet to be made from evidence collected.

DHA presence at banks

DA’s Hoosen also stated that “nothing ever came free from banks”. He expressed disbelief that the all four major banking institutions were seriously going to involve themselves in such monetary matters and reconciliations with DHA and integration of DHA staff on their premises for free.

DHA replied that what was being undertaken was a pilot which involved a “stand alone” DHA booth to handle information input, fingerprints and photos and that bank would accept monies and credit DHA as did some retail outlets with municipal matters. DHA staff would be involved.

Security of info

To some extent the DA were satisfied to hear the banks themselves did not deal with the personal details of applicants, leaving DHA as sole handler of the any information on their data capture system, as in the past. Nevertheless they asked for  a “ball park figure” as an  idea of what the private sector involvement would add to the cost of an ID and passport.

DHA responded that it might double the cost of a Smart Card ID and push passport costs well up to R1,500 but at this stage all was conjecture as the pilots with the two banks had only just started.  If it was decided to go ahead, then the whole process would have to be costed before it went to National treasury for approval as a possibility and the involvement with the banks would have to be a “self reducing” exercise but faster.

Quo vadis?

On questions on the need to communicate with the public, DHA said the whole issue was early stages and in any case the process was a five to seven year plan and communications would come up only when the entire system was wrapped up and ready to go.

On the ability of DHA to handle such a national campaign of this magnitude, a number of MPs queried whether the department, as it was presently constituted, was able to handle such a programme.  DHA said part of the plan involved the hiring of staff and a major focus was on an extensive training programme. DHA said they were used to handling such matters as elections and there were a number of common factors involved.

Fingerprints may overcome

The main areas of concern to DHA, the presenter said, was rather in the area of fingerprint verification where “swopping” between immoral staff and the public was concerned and outside scam organisers who deluded the public with false information but they felt that the photo verification system, when added, would eliminate most of the physical fraud possibilities in collection by the right person.

DHA said that in their experience, the areas of cutting, pasting and manual tasks were the areas that the risk analysis project had mainly to focus on. The risk analysis project was the vital undertaking that was being assessed at the moment,

When asked by members where the two pilots were being conducted, DHA said that this was being undertaken with Standard and FNB in Gauteng, who were helping with risk analysis.

Other articles in this category or as background
Home Affairs gives reasons for visa changes – ParlyReportSA
Home Affairs fails on most targets – ParlyReportSA
Private Security Industry Bill comes closer – ParlyReportSA

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Home Affairs fails on most targets

Department getting just about nowhere…

sa passportDepressing figures and equally depressing facts emerged from the annual report of the department of home affairs (DHA) to Parliament this year in the light of, once again, a qualified audit report and some pretty sad performance figures against targets where only 100% achievement is recognised.

Mkuseli Aplieni, director general, DHA, was responsible for the reporting but he was supported by neither the minister, Naledi Pandor, nor the deputy minister, Fatima Chohan. The DHA claimed that its mandate was to maintain the national population register; to manage effectively all immigration and to “develop state and civil society partnerships in support of service delivery and security mandates.”

Aplieni said DHA had “reasonably and efficiently” facilitated large volumes of immigrants and visitors through ports of entry thus supporting large international events and the tourist industry; it had “largely” eradicated the backlog of temporary residence permits and there were some efficiency gains in deportations of illegal migrants and in the adjudication of asylum seekers.

100% achievement, nothing less

DHA had 50 target areas and had partially achieved these at between 41% and 99% of targets. A target achievement requires 100%.  DHA had however managed to refurbish 19 offices, and fill 60% of vacancies, and this was making gains on the strategy to bring DHA closer to the people, Aplieni said.
However, he told Maggie Mauyne, chair of the portfolio committee on home affairs, the DHA faced major challenges in managing a complex and dynamic immigration environment, as well as in aligning and strategically managing the planning and budgeting cycle with staff shortages.

Slow start to ID smart cards

He said the pilot project for providing smart card IDs was tested with 100 cards although it was noted that this would be a long-term project running over the next six to seven years. Smart card development would require three years to develop and then another six to seven years to issue the cards to 38 million ID book holders. This process could not be rushed, he said.

E-permitting and visa system specifications had been approved in quantity and finalised in the meanwhile, Aplieni said. In general however, 100% of ID duplicates for clients coming forward were resolved within 12 weeks but the challenges remained of duplicates and corruption surrounding IDs.

Residence permit backlog better

The backlog of temporary residence permits had been largely eradicated, he said, but there were still problems with the need for speed on permanent residence permits, although a special committee had been established to deal with them and the backlog.

In answer to questions on this subject, Aplieni said there were some basic problems with the temporary residence permit procedure in terms of legal procedure on a number of applications already received recently as well as the backlog that had built up.

The DHA, he said, had to focus on new temporary permits first but a committee had been set up to deal with the backlog and by November 2013 much of it should have been resolved. A committee of five people had been dedicated to dealing with this problem.

Can’t get to grip with computers

In terms of fighting against corruption, a draft concept paper was reported to be under consideration, specifically on the role of DHA in fighting corruption and strengthening the security of identity and immigration systems. DG Aplieni reported that the Auditor-General (AG) had not issued an unqualified audit report in this year and this was mainly because DHA partially because remained challenged with the IT systems.

Opposition members noted that the “burning issue” was the question of leadership in the department and even the internal auditing team was not doing its work properly. One ANC said that as the DHA was a security department, the issue of corruption was a matter of national security when it came to illegal or undesirable people likely to use the corruption that existed to secure their stay in the country. This was viewed as a serious threat to national integrity and security,let alone the problems noted by the AG.

Still leadership problems

DG Aplieni explained that there was in fact a structure of communication and meetings in the DHA. He accepted that there was some poor management arising from the fact that the Chief Operations Officer (COO) post was not filled and the DHA was seeking someone to appoint in that capacity. The COO would assist the DHA in monitoring and ensuring that the DHA was effectively and adequately operated and this would be a centre of communication in future leading to much better management of such issues.

He also explained that the President’s target for 50 000 foreign workers was onerous but the DHA was doing all that it could to reach that target.

Getting to grips with corruption

Again, concerns were also raised about corruption within the department and the subject was raised by MPs of home affairs employees who did not declare their private businesses. MPs complained that there was a “culture of corruption” within home affairs and asked DG Aplieni what measures were being put in place to discourage malpractice and detect bribes.

It was quite difficult for the DHA to detect staff who did not declare their businesses, he responded. The DHA had as much information as was declared by employees from a form setting out the declaration of their assets, but it was impossible to know of those who had not done this or who had done it properly. It was even more difficult for DHA to go to the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office to investigate businesses that might be owned by employees or their spouses.

Back to IT vacuum

On the high vacancy rate, Aplieni said that the DHA faced certain challenges with employing people who were experienced in the IT field. Given the complexity of the work at the department there were many other positions that needed qualified people for DHA to achieve their objectives and targets and many posts stood vacant..

On the question of corruption, DG Aplieni said that the DHA did have disciplinary measures in place although “it took the issue of discipline seriously”. An employee could not be dismissed without the matter proceeding along the right lines. If there was a challenge and the matter went to court, that court action had to be allowed to run its course. He said that the Labour Relations Act and unions protected workers against dismissals. Whilst the matter might be before a court, an employee in question would be working and, eventually would be paid.

Foreigners entering

An ANC member expressed her concern around the fact that South Africa was not aware of the exact status or numbers of illegal or temporary foreigners in the country. She wanted to know what the DHA was doing to ensure national security and to prevent Kenyan terrorist-style attacks.

The response from DG Aplieni was that higher standards at ports of entry, DHA said, were not yet finalised although a draft concept paper on strengthening security of systems had been begun and was in process.

MPs asked for comment from the DHA on the woman who had been involved in a terrorist attack, who was claimed to be a South African. Aplieni said that this particular person, Samantha Lewthwaite, who might have been involved in the terrorist attack in Nairobi, was able to enter and leave the country without being detected or tracked down. DG Aplieni explained that the Department of Home Affairs in fact had compelling evidence that she was not using a South African passport.

No fingerprinting at borders

On border management and the question of undesirables entering the country, DG Apleni reminded the committee that no fingerprints were taken at border entry posts, although DHA was now at last included on the national security committee with South African Police Services and defence department.

On deportations of those staying illegally in South Africa, human rights activists sought judicial remedy which was expensive or embassies did not collaborate. This problem had to be solved at ministerial level, he said.  DHA was at the moment engaged in exhausting all judicial remedies available on the problem.

Refer to articles in this category
http://parlyreportsa.co.za//cabinetpresidential/business-interests-bill-to-control-corruption-with-tenders/

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