Tracking ID applications by SMS

People who apply for South African identity documents (IDs) or passports – including those who applied after 9 February 2007 – can now track the progress of their application via cellphone or internet.

ID document
The ID track and trace system has been implemented at all Home Affairs offices across the country. (Image: Lowvelder)

Brand South Africa reporter

Speaking to journalists in Cape Town last month, Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the ID track and trace system had been implemented at all Home Affairs offices across the country, after its progressive roll-out through the year.

“We’re not saying the system is perfect, but we do believe it will reduce the long queues at Home Affairs offices, and we’re hoping that by the end of the year citizens will be able to report some form of satisfaction,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.

To make a query via SMS, citizens can simply send an SMS containing the letters ID, followed by a space, followed by their ID number, to 32551. For passport applications, the SMS should contain the letter P, followed by a space, followed by ID number. Each SMS costs R1.

The system, developed by external IT experts working together with government officials, allows departmental managers to trace an ID or passport application from the moment it is lodged through every stage of the process until it is delivered to the applicant.

It also allows for monitoring of productivity, allowing managers to establish which Home Affairs office is responsible for any particular ID application.

The new system will cut down not only on the queues at Home Affairs offices around the country, but also on the opportunities for corruption.

“By clearly identifying each official responsible for every step of the process, [the system] will allow managers to find any departmental employee who substitutes photographs and sells IDs illegally, alters details on the central registry system, or creates fraudulent ID numbers,” the department said in a statement last month.

The system will also help improve the turn-around time for the processing of applications and delivery of new ID books.

Speaking to journalists in Pretoria this week, Home Affairs Director-General Mavuso Msimang said the system was being bolstered with staff and management training, the addition of new fingerprint scanning machines, and better use of existing image capturing machines.

It currently takes over 100 days for an ID book to be processed, and by the time a customer receives it, it has been handled about 80 times, Msimang said. The department would be looking to remove a number of bottlenecks from this process.

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