Parliament’s portfolio committee on home affairs has hailed commitments to roll out Home Affairs services to more banks.
THE PORTFOLIO committee on home affairs has hailed commitments to roll out Home Affairs services to more banks.
Home Affairs provided a progress update to the committee over ongoing deliberations between the department and the Banking Association of South Africa (Basa).
“While the committee welcomed the movement from pilot phase to full partnership phase, it raised concerns about the lengthy interactions. Despite this, however, the committee is optimistic that all impediments have been resolved,” said committee chairperson Mosa Chabane.
“The committee is of the view that the increase in footprint that will follow as a result of this agreement will have a positive impact on the perennial challenge of long queues facing the department of Home Affairs (DHA). As the process unfolds, the committee has called on the department to resolve teething challenges by utilisation of its e-Home Affairs portal including functionality.”
The committee has also called on the department to undertake international benchmarking to improve its e-Home Affairs portal. This, according to the committee, will ensure that best practices were shared on how best to develop and maintain such a platform and reduce the traffic at Home Affairs offices.
Chabane also raised concerns about the under-resourced contact centre operating at 54% of its capacity.
While the committee acknowledged the financial challenge facing all government departments, it expressed concern that high vacancy rate results in longer waiting time and frustrations. It has called on the department to develop strategies on how it will resolve this challenge and ensure optimal functionality.
An Absa bank spokesperson said that at the inception of its partnership with the department in 2017, the service was launched in five branches offering Smart ID and passport application services and over this period these branches have performed well.
“Regarding the reliability of systems, Absa’s systems are geared to support, however, there are outstanding matters for the DHA to resolve and discussions in this regard are being managed at industry level via the Banking Association South Africa,” said the spokesperson.
The spokesperson said in the course of Absa’s infrastructure development planning, the bank had provisioned for more than 20 additional sites in support of a possible future expansion of DHA services across all provinces.
Standard Bank, which has nine branches that offer the service, said that while the bank allows for the service to be offered in its dedicated branches, the service and the department’s digital systems remain entirely independent and controlled by the department.
“We do not have any control over client bookings made online, turnaround times of the DHA, collection dates and/or cancellation notifications or any other similar operational services of the department. Thus, the addition of any new services is at the discretion of the DHA,” said Standard Bank.
FNB Points of Presence CEO Zibu Nqala said the bank has seven branches offering the service.
Nqala said these services are very popular among FNB customers. Since inception in July 2015, the bank has issued over 450,000 Smart IDs and passports.
“We have additional branches earmarked in the different regions,” she added.