The Department Homes Affairs says its plans to improve services and bring an end to long queues is on track after having made slow progress in the past few months.
The department’s officials briefed Parliament’s portfolio committee on Home Affairs this week.
During the virtual meeting, Home Affairs director-general Tommy Makhode told the committee that the department was making progress in bolstering its IT systems, in collaboration with the State Information Technology (Sita).
Home Affairs and Sita has been working together to improve IT systems that trigger downtime at the department’s branches across the country, resulting in long queues.
Earlier this year, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi placed the blame for the department’s systems on Sita, saying other government services that did not experience downtime frequently had procured their services from the private sector.
However, Home Affairs Deputy Minister Njabulo Nzuza revealed that the department had improved its working relationship with Sita.
“We realised that working together is the only way that we going to able to move forward in order to deal with our issues,” Nzuza told MPs.
Makhode, meanwhile, said the investment plan both institutions had been working on would be due for completion by June 2022.
The investment plan, Makhode said, would prioritise securing “an uninterruptible network architecture” to improve the efficiency of the department’s offices.
“Of course, we do note that in order for us to perform optimally as a department we need a reliable and high-capacity network, which is essential to our daily operations.
“There are three strategic goals that guide this investment plan. The first one looks at the support, the maintenance and ensuring that we have a secure critical infrastructure.
“The second [goal] is to ensure we improve efficiency and effectiveness of [the department’s] operations and lastly we need to ensure we increase access and transparency to local government and the citizens,” he said.
The director-general said Sita made R3 billion-R4 billion investment, however, that more funds would ultimately be required for further implementation of the investment plan.
Makhode also gave an update on the Automated Biometric Identification System (Abis), launched in 2018.
The director-general said the department had been working to revive the Abis project, which is aimed at ending identity theft.
He told the committee that they would complete the first phase of Abis by the end of this year.
If this phase is successful, the system would be introduced on a trial basis, which would run parallel with the Home Affairs National Identity System (Hanis) for approximately 12 months.
The Abis system was introduced to replace the Hanis, which was said to be manually operated and outdated.
According to the department, Abis aims to act as a fundamental baseline for the national identification system and will consolidate South African and foreign nationals’ data into a single base.
In May, the committee heard how IT firm, EOH, allegedly flouted tender processes to score the Abis contract, valued at more than R400 million, from the department.
Payments made to EOH regarding the Abis project amounted to R283 million.
While the company was slapped with a R44 million penalty by the department, the matter of penalties is still under arbitration.
“The EOH arbitration with regards to the penalties is an ongoing process. It will take time,” Makhode said.
He revealed that the case was cuurently with law enforcement.
“Cases are registered with the Hawks. We’ll update when we can,” he told MPs.
Makhode further briefed the committee about Home Affairs’ plans regard a new booking system.
He said the system would be launched next year and would be aimed at tackling long queues and corruption.
The director-general revealed that the system had been finalised and would be used in selected offices.
“We hope to pilot [the booking system] in five offices from the 3rd of December to the 31st of March . These [offices] are mainly located in Gauteng,” he said.
The system will allow citizens to use their ID number to book a slot, preventing illegal activities in the process.
It will also use a mobile app that will allow people to schedule appointments.
Users are also expected to fill out a declaration regarding their health and Covid-19 status for health and safety regulations.