11 June 2008
The Department of Home Affairs’ turnaround strategy is on track, marking a change in the way the department does business and delivers services to citizens and residents.
Delivering her budget vote in Parliament in Cape Town this week, Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said that this could only bode well for the customers who visited Home Affairs offices.
She said that her department had achieved the goals set out in the first phase of the turnaround strategy, with the department being able to issue a new identity document within two-and-a-half months – down from the initial waiting period of up to six months.
“We are well on our way to our aim of two months by the end of the year,” she added.
The department has also acquired a new e-passport production system, to be installed in the government printing works by August this year, with staff already having begun training on the new system.
“The main benefit of the new system will be the reduction in the passport production turnaround time due to the printing systems ability to print higher volumes,” she said. “The implementation of online fingerprint verification and subsequent interface with the passport completion processes will further enhance the turnaround times and issuance within 10 days.”
Mapisa-Nqakula said the department had a constitutional obligation to provide every South African with an identity document, which serves as a key for access to rights and services in the country.
“By introducing an operational management system as part of the roll out of the new process, we are eliminating blockages in the production process,” she said. “This means that we will be able to offer our clients reasonable and reliable time frames within which they can expect their documents.”
She said that the Track and Trace system, which enables the department to track the progress of customers’ ID applications, had transformed the way in which the department handled customer enquiries about the progress of their applications.
“We can report that the system is now fully operational in all our permanent offices nationwide,” she said. “We are receiving positive feedback both externally and internally. The system has clearly worked as a management and a service tool.”
In addition, temporary Identification Certificates are now being issued immediately.
The department also started with the roll out of online fingerprint verification systems, which enable it to verify fingerprints electronically at local offices even before applications are sent to the head office in Pretoria, in 40 offices during March this year.
The online verification makes it possible for counter staff to conduct real-time fingerprint comparison of citizens whose fingerprints were previously registered on the automated fingerprint identification system.
This has lead to further improved turnaround times in respect of issuing ID documents, temporary identity certificates, emergency and temporary passports. Previously centralised manual fingerprint verification took an average of seven days to process.
Smart ID cards
Mapisa-Nqqkula told members of Parliament that a pilot project for smart ID cards – the only outstanding element of the Home affairs National Identification System – would commence in December this year, after the Cabinet approved the model and roll out plan for the card and the replacement of the current green bar-coded ID book.
This will streamline the production process, reduce turn around times for the ID document and ensure the integrity of the identification system, she said, adding that the roll-out would go hand-in-hand with the national population register clean up.
The department has set aside a total of R114-million for the 2008/09 financial year, with the amount rising to R335-million in the 2009/10 financial year as the volumes of the roll out increase.
“In order to properly manage the roll out, we will issue a limited number of these cards to identified vulnerable groups and continue with a staggered roll out in the following years,” she said. “Discussions will be held with the [Independent Electoral Commission] regarding the use of these cards during the 2009 general elections.”