Today’s Senate hearing was delayed due to the Prime Minister’s press conference held in the morning but when it resumed, Former Acting Director of Immigration, Maria Marin returned to testify. Before the Senators questioned her, however, she gave a statement in which she outlined her time in office starting from February 25, 2013, to April 29, 2016, when she was transferred from the Immigration Department. Marin explained that she, from the onset, was interested in making improvements at the department and said she received expressions of support from the then minister and CEO in the Department. The first area for improvement, she explained, came in the area of visa applications;but when it came to applications that had the support of Ministers, she was unable to fully implement changes she intended. Here’s how she put it.
Maria Marin – Former Acting Director
“The first opportunity for improvement came immediately upon moving into the director’s office regarding the approval of Visa Applications. The process I encountered was a very haphazard one so one of the first changes was to require that all applications follow the proper process which entailed that they were reviewed for completeness, were accompanied by the relevant supporting documents and were properly vetted. Additionally, the function of vetting these applications was separated from the immigration services section as this was the same section which accepted and reviewed the applications. The vetting process was then assigned to the investigation section which upon completion of the interview and due diligence forwarded the applications with the vetting officers observations to the officer in charge of the immigration section for his or her recommendation which then formed the basis for the director’s approval. This separation of duties in the process was intended to allow for improved transparency and it also served as an internal check and balance mechanism. These changes brought much discontent and did not bode well for those persons whose applications it appeared had previously not been required to follow any process whatsoever. I was subsequently advised by the substantive minister that a specific process was to be followed for those visa applications recommended or supported by ministers. A process which is evidenced by memorandums dated as early as April of 2013. This process involved among other instructions that and I quote ”All applications supported by ministers or caretakers would come to the ministry for initial vetting and the ministry will then hand over to the director of immigration under confidential cover” end quote. I have a document that I can tender as evidence of this. Hence the receipt of cover memoirs from CEO to the acting director with the names of applicants and by whom these applications were being submitted, supported or recommended which in most cases were ministers or caretakers. As the then acting director I insisted however that these applications undergo the newly implemented process of being complete, meeting requirements, having supporting documents attached and being vetted. It was agreed also that they would be expedited within five working days.”