Reconsider travel to South Africa due to COVID-19. Exercise increased caution in South Africa due to crime, civil unrest, health, and drought.
Read the Department of State’s COVID-19 page before you plan any international travel.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for South Africa due to COVID-19.
South Africa has lifted stay at home orders, and resumed some transportation options and business operations. Visit the Embassy’s COVID-19 page for more information on COVID–19 in South Africa.
Violent crime, such as armed robbery, rape, carjacking, mugging, and “smash-and-grab” attacks on vehicles, is common. There is a higher risk of violent crime in the central business districts of major cities after dark.
Demonstrations, protests, and strikes occur frequently. These can develop quickly without prior notification, often interrupting traffic, transportation, and other services; such events have the potential to turn violent.
Parts of South Africa are experiencing a drought. Water supplies in some areas may be affected. Residential water-use restrictions are in place in Cape Town and other municipalities. Read the country information page.
Please see our Alerts for up-to-date information.
If you decide to travel to South Africa:
Last Update: Reissued with updates to drought information.
- Coast Guard: Enhancements Needed to Strengthen Marine Inspection Workforce Planning EffortsBy Sam NewsJanuary 12, 2022What GAO Found The safe operation of vessels is critical to the maritime sector, which contributes nearly $5.4 trillion annually to the U.S. economy. The U.S. Coast Guard uses a tool called the Sector Staffing Model to assess its marine inspection staffing levels at operational field units for the upcoming year. GAO's analysis of the tool's data shows that the supply of marine inspectors has consistently not met the estimated need (see fig.). However, the Coast Guard collects and analyzes limited data to forecast future workforce and industry trends that could affect the supply and demand for marine inspectors. For example, the Coast Guard collects industry data to forecast workforce needs for certain vessel types (e.g., cruise ships) but not others (e.g., freight vessels). Further, the Coast Guard does not regularly collect and analyze other data, such as future potential retirements, that could affect the supply of marine inspectors. Collecting additional data to forecast future trends in the maritime industry and its marine inspection workforce would enhance the Coast Guard's ability to identify potential future workforce needs. Percentage of Coast Guard Marine Inspection Workforce Staffed Compared with the Sector Staffing Model's Full Capacity Estimates, 2012 through 2020 The Coast Guard has initiatives as part of its workforce improvement plan to address long-standing marine inspection workforce needs, but they are at varying stages of completion. For example, the Coast Guard began implementing initiatives to address challenges in four key areas—training and skills, technology, workforce staffing levels, and workforce structure. Specifically, in 2020 and 2021, the Coast Guard developed new training courses, deployed a mobile application that allows remote access to its inspection database, and added 65 new marine inspector positions to help address its shortfall of over 400 inspectors. Other initiatives remain ongoing. However, the Coast Guard has not established performance measures with targets for its marine inspection workforce improvement plan and associated initiatives that would identify desired outcomes and provide a means to measure how its efforts help close workforce gaps over time. Doing so would better position the Coast Guard to determine the effectiveness of its efforts to address its marine inspection workforce challenges. Why GAO Did This Study The Coast Guard serves as the principal federal agency responsible for marine safety. A key element of this mission is the marine inspection program, which employs marine inspectors to conduct vessel inspections. However, for decades, the program has faced challenges maintaining an adequate staff of experienced marine safety personnel. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 includes a provision for GAO to review marine inspection workforce issues. This report examines the extent to which the Coast Guard has (1) assessed its marine inspection workforce needs and (2) addressed these needs. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed Coast Guard policies, workforce assessments, and performance plans; analyzed staffing level data from 2012 through 2020 (the years with comparable data); and interviewed Coast Guard officials.[Read More…]
- Military Personnel: More DOD Actions Needed to Address Servicemembers’ Personal Financial Management IssuesBy Sam NewsAugust 31, 2021Congress and the Department of Defense (DOD) are concerned about the financial conditions of servicemembers and their families, particularly in light of recent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Serious financial issues can negatively affect unit readiness. According to DOD, servicemembers with severe financial problems risk losing security clearances, incurring administrative or criminal penalties or, in some cases, face discharge. Despite increases in compensation and DOD programs on personal financial management (PFM), studies show that servicemembers, particularly junior enlisted personnel, continue to report financial difficulties. GAO assessed (1) the extent deployment impacts the financial condition of active duty servicemembers and their families, (2) whether DOD has an oversight framework for evaluating military programs designed to assist deployed and non-deployed servicemembers in managing their finances, and (3) the extent junior enlisted servicemembers receive required PFM training.The financial conditions of deployed and non-deployed servicemembers and their families are similar, but deployed servicemembers and their families may face additional financial problems related to pay. In both a 2003 DOD-wide survey and non-generalizable focus groups that GAO conducted on 13 military installations in the United States and Germany, servicemembers who were deployed reported similar financial conditions as those who were not deployed. Some of GAO's focus group participants also noted that they--like Army Reservists in GAO's 2004 report, Military Pay: Army Reserve Soldiers Mobilized to Active Duty Experienced Significant Pay Problems--had not received their $250 family separation allowance each month during their deployment. Pay record data showed that almost 6,000 deployed servicemembers had received more than the prescribed $250 in January 2005, and 11 of them received a $3,000 catch-up, lump sum payment--the equivalent of 12 months of the allowance. This pay problem was due, in part, to service procedures being confusing and not always followed. Families who do not receive this allowance each month may experience financial strain caused by additional expenses such as extra childcare. DOD lacks an oversight framework--with results-oriented performance measures and reporting requirements--for evaluating the effectiveness of PFM programs across the services. DOD's 2002 human capital strategic plan stated that a standardized evaluation system for PFM programs is a desired goal; however, DOD does not currently have such a system. In 2003, GAO reported that DOD had included evaluative reporting measures in a draft of its PFM instruction to the services. However, the final PFM instruction issued by DOD in 2004 did not address outcome measures or contain a requirement that the services report program results to DOD because the services objected to these additional reporting requirements. Without a policy requiring evaluation and a reporting relationship between DOD and the services, DOD and Congress do not have the visibility or oversight needed to address issues related to the PFM programs. Some junior enlisted servicemembers are not receiving PFM training that is required in service regulations. While each of the services implements PFM training differently, all of the services have policies requiring that PFM training be provided to junior enlisted servicemembers. Moreover, the extent to which the PFM training is not received is unknown because most of the services do not track the completion of PFM training at the service level. Only the Army collected installation-level data and could provide a service-wide estimate of PFM training completed by junior enlisted servicemembers. Senior Army officers said PFM training had not been a priority given the need to prepare for current operations. Top-level DOD officials have repeatedly stated that financial issues directly affect servicemembers' mission readiness and should be addressed. Therefore, units whose servicemembers do not receive required PFM training risk jeopardizing their ability to meet mission requirements.[Read More…]
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- FDA Workforce: Agency-Wide Workforce Planning Needed to Ensure Medical Product Staff Meet Current and Future NeedsBy Sam NewsJanuary 14, 2022What GAO Found The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—is responsible for, among other things, ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human medical products marketed in the United States. FDA has used a variety of strategies to improve the agency's ability to recruit and retain the scientific, technical, and professional staff for its three centers responsible for the oversight of human medical products. These centers—the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, and the Center for Devices and Radiological Health—were the focus of GAO's review. To improve both recruitment and retention for these centers, FDA leveraged the hiring and pay flexibilities provided by the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act) to expedite hiring and to offer higher salaries than the agency could under traditional federal hiring authorities. FDA has used these flexibilities to hire and retain staff such as scientists, physicians, and regulatory counsel, for whom pay disparities with the private sector are especially large. FDA also established a team dedicated to engaging with the scientific community and established a unified branding strategy that emphasizes the agency's public health mission. GAO found that FDA follows some leading practices for effective workforce planning for medical product staff. FDA's medical product centers each conduct yearly workforce planning in which they determine the skills they need and develop strategies to address identified gaps. However, FDA does not have an agency-wide strategic workforce plan to coordinate human capital efforts across the medical product centers, nor does it have performance measures in place to evaluate the effectiveness of its human capital strategies, as called for by leading practices of effective workforce planning. FDA Workforce Planning Activities for Medical Product Staff As Compared to GAO-Identified Leading Practices for Effective Workforce Planning Leading practice Alignment between FDA actions and leading practices Determine needed skills and develop strategies to address gaps ● Monitor and evaluate progress toward human capital goals ◒ Develop a strategic workforce plan ◯ Legend: ● = Aligned with leading practices; ◒ = Partially aligned with leading practices; ○ = Not aligned with leading practices Source: GAO analysis of Food and Drug Administration documents and interviews with officials. | GAO-22-104791 Further, FDA does not have a process to update such a plan on an ongoing basis should one be developed. FDA's last agency-wide strategic workforce plan—covering fiscal years 2010 through 2012—was developed under prior leadership and current agency officials were not aware of it. Without an agency-wide strategic workforce plan and a process to keep it up to date, FDA lacks reasonable assurance that actions taken within its individual centers and offices will help the agency achieve its overarching goals and mission over time. Why GAO Did This Study FDA relies on a qualified medical product workforce to achieve its mission to protect public health. However, FDA has faced challenges meeting its medical product workforce needs, due in part to competition with the private sector for candidates. Enacted in 2016, the 21st Century Cures Act provided additional flexibilities to facilitate FDA's recruitment and retention of medical product staff and included a provision for GAO to study FDA's recruitment and retention of these staff. This report: (1) describes the strategies FDA uses to recruit, hire, and retain medical product staff, and (2) evaluates the workforce planning processes FDA uses for these staff and whether these processes follow leading workforce planning practices. GAO analyzed FDA policies, guidance, reports, and data related to recruitment and retention of medical product staff and workforce planning. GAO also interviewed FDA officials responsible for hiring these staff and nonprofit and private sector organizations representing scientific staff.[Read More…]
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- Depot Maintenance: Improved Strategic Planning Needed to Ensure That Army and Marine Corps Depots Can Meet Future Maintenance RequirementsBy Sam NewsAugust 24, 2021The Army and Marine Corps maintenance depots provide critical support to ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and are heavily involved in efforts to reset the force. The Department of Defense (DOD) has an interest in ensuring that the depots remain operationally effective, efficient, and capable of meeting future maintenance requirements. In 2008, in response to direction by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), the Army and the Marine Corps each submitted a depot maintenance strategic plan. Our objective was to evaluate the extent to which these plans provide comprehensive strategies for meeting future depot maintenance requirements. GAO determined whether the plans were consistent with the criteria for developing a results-oriented management framework and fully addressed OSD's criteria.The depot maintenance strategic plans developed by the Army and Marine Corps identify key issues affecting the depots, but do not provide assurance that the depots will be postured and resourced to meet future maintenance requirements because they do not fully address all of the elements required for a comprehensive, results-oriented management framework. Nor are they fully responsive to OSD's direction for developing the plans. While the services' strategic plans contain mission statements, along with long-term goals and objectives, they do not fully address all the elements needed for sound strategic planning, such as external factors that may affect how goals and objectives will be accomplished, performance indicators or metrics that measure outcomes and gauge progress, and resources required to meet the goals and objectives. Also, the plans partially address four issues that OSD directed the services, at a minimum, to include in their plans, such as logistics transformation, core logistics capability assurance, workforce revitalization, and capital investment. Army and Marine Corps officials involved with the development of the service strategic plans acknowledged that their plans do not fully address the OSD criteria, but they stated that the plans nevertheless address issues they believe are critical to maintaining effective, long-term depot maintenance capabilities. The Army's and Marine Corps' plans also are not comprehensive because they do not provide strategies for mitigating and reducing uncertainties in future workloads that affect the depots' ability to plan for meeting future maintenance requirements. Such uncertainties stem primarily from a lack of information on (1) workload that will replace current work on existing systems, which is expected to decline, and (2) workload associated with new systems that are in the acquisition pipeline. According to depot officials, to effectively plan for future maintenance requirements, the depots need timely and reliable information from their major commands on both the amounts and types of workloads they should expect to receive in future years. Depot officials told us that the information they receive from their major commands on their future workloads are uncertain beyond the current fiscal year. Officials cited various factors that contribute to these uncertainties, such as volatility in workload requirements, changing wartime environment, budget instability, and unanticipated changes in customer orders. In addition, depot officials said that they are not involved in the sustainment portion of the life cycle management planning process for new and modified systems. No clear process exists that would enable them to have input into weapon system program managers' decisions on how and where new and modified systems will be supported and maintained in the future. Unless they are integrated in this planning process, these officials said, the depots will continue to have uncertainties about what capabilities they will need to plan for future workloads and what other resources they will need to support new and modified weapon systems.[Read More…]
- Voters with Disabilities: State and Local Actions and Federal Resources to Address Accessibility of Early VotingBy Sam NewsJuly 22, 2021What GAO Found Selected states and localities have taken steps to make voting prior to Election Day accessible for people with disabilities, but election officials and advocacy officials reported that challenges persist. Election officials reported taking steps to make in-person early voting accessible such as addressing barriers to physical access and providing accessible voting equipment (see figure), but election and advocacy officials reported challenges including physical obstacles such as gravel parking lots and voting equipment not being set up properly. Voting by mail may be an accessible option and has been used more frequently by those with disabilities than others. However, election and advocacy officials also noted that some voters with disabilities have difficulty marking paper mail ballots; six of seven states GAO contacted offer them electronic delivery and marking options. Steps Taken by Selected States and Localities to Make Early In-Person Voting Accessible Selected states and localities have taken steps to make voting information available and accessible, but voters with disabilities may encounter challenges with both. States and some localities have provided information about accessible voting options on their websites, but advocacy officials reported challenges, such as one state not providing information about the accessibility features of its voting equipment. States have also taken steps to make websites accessible, such as ensuring compatibility with screen readers used by people with visual disabilities. However, election and advocacy officials reported, among other things, that some website content such as digital materials, lacks accessibility features and some content is not written in plain language. Federal agencies have assisted state and local election officials in their efforts to ensure accessible voting. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has provided guidance and educational resources on voting accessibility, such as a checklist for assessing polling places, which some selected states and localities have found useful. The Election Assistance Commission (EAC)—a national clearinghouse of information about election administration—has also provided resources on topics such as accessible voting equipment and partnering with disability advocates. However, selected states and localities GAO contacted reported mixed feedback on the usefulness of EAC resources. Although the EAC communicates regularly with election officials, it does not have a mechanism for collecting and using feedback from these officials about the usefulness of its existing accessibility resources or additional resource needs. Implementing such a mechanism would better positon the EAC to meet election officials' needs. Why GAO Did This Study An estimated 38 million Americans with disabilities were eligible to vote in the November 2020 election, according to a Rutgers University study. Federal law generally requires that all aspects of voting be accessible to people with disabilities. Recent increases in voting in person and by mail prior to Election Day have focused attention on these voting modes. GAO was asked to examine the accessibility of voting prior to Election Day and voting information. This report addresses steps taken by selected states and localities to (1) make voting prior to Election Day accessible, and the challenges in doing so; and (2) make voting information available and accessible, and the challenges in doing so. It also addresses (3) DOJ and EAC efforts to assist states and localities with voting accessibility. GAO interviewed state election and advocacy officials in seven states, and local officials in six of the states and reviewed associated documentation. These states were selected to provide variation in turnout between voters with and without disabilities, and election policies, among other factors. The results from these states and localities are not generalizable, but provide perspectives on accessibility. GAO also analyzed 2016 and 2020 data from a nationwide survey of voters, reviewed DOJ and EAC guidance and resources, and interviewed federal officials.[Read More…]
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- Government Contractor Admits Scheme to Inflate Costs on Federal Projects and Pays $11 Million to Resolve Criminal and Civil ProbesBy Sam NewsDecember 21, 2020Schneider Electric Buildings Americas Inc. (Schneider Electric), a nationwide provider of electricity solutions for buildings and data centers with its principal place of business in Carrollton, Texas, will pay $11 million to resolve criminal and civil investigations relating to kickbacks and overcharges on eight federally-funded energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs), the Department of Justice announced today. Under the contracts, Schneider Electric was to install a variety of energy savings upgrades, such as solar panels, LED lighting, and insulation, in federal buildings.[Read More…]
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