The Department of Home Affairs plans to expand its e-booking system which it says will drastically reduce long queues and wait times at its offices.
Responding in a recent parliamentary Q&A, Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi said the Branch Appointment Booking System will be piloted at some live capture offices for Smart ID Card and Passports applications, as well as for the collections of both documents during the 2021/22 financial year.
“This system will allow clients to make a booking and visit the office on the day and time of the appointment without standing in queues. The system will be rolled out to other identified high volume offices in the next years.
“The department also has a strategy to expand its infrastructure and its footprint, whereby currently 28 bank branches which are operational and available to service clients requiring DHA services.”
The new e-booking system forms part of a wider push to improve service delivery at Home Affairs offices, including a plan to address ageing equipment and an unstable network which has led to infrastructure issues. The department also plans to improve internet speeds and system downtime through new technologies, it said.
The system, which is current being trialled in select high-volume offices, has been integrated with the national population register to allow clients to use their ID numbers to book a slot. This will prevent agents illegally operating in home affairs offices from blocking slots to sell them on.
This includes options to book an appointment at a specific home affairs office in each province, as well as an expected start and end time.
As part of an outreach programme, mobile units are also being deployed to far-flung areas across the country to deliver services to the public, the minister said.
There is currently a fleet of hundred mobile units across the country. An additional ten (mobile units are being procured to increase the footprint in the department. The plan is to have all ten mobile units delivered before the end of this financial year 2021/22, Motsoaledi said.
Home Affairs said it would offer extended operating hours at its offices across the country this week after a cable break caused a nationwide outage on Friday (1 April)
“The Department of Home Affairs is extending operating hours until Friday (8 April 2022), to deal with queues at offices following an increase in demand for services. During this period, offices will open until 18h30,” the department said in a statement.”
Responding in recent a written parliamentary Q&A session, Motsoaledi said the downtime percentage for the 2020 – 21 financial year was 1.26%, with the downtime primarily related to cable theft.
Data provided by the minister shows the Kensington branch in KwaZulu-Natal, the Grove Mall in Gauteng and Galeshewe in the Northern Cape were some of the biggest downtime offenders over the last year.
By comparison, the downtime percentage between April 2021 and February 2022 period was closer to 5% (4.39%), primarily as a result of load shedding at some offices without generators.
Motsoaledi said that over this period the branches which were the biggest offenders included Mount Frere and Engcobo in the Eastern Cape, and Ganyesa in the North West.
The minister added that the department never closes its offices due to system downtimes and continued to render services that are not system-dependent such as births, marriages and deaths certificates.