Government pushes to end long queues and downtime at Home Affairs.
By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
Parliament's portfolio committee on home affairs is pushing the government to end long queues at Home Affairs offices across the country once and for all.
The Department of Home Affairs presented its Annual Performance Plan for the 2022/23 financial year to the committee this week, noting that system downtime and connectivity issues remain a significant hurdle that still needs to be addressed.
"The committee remains concerned by the long queues at home affairs offices and the continued downtime caused by internet connectivity challenges," said chairperson Mosa Chabane.
"The committee emphasised that a concerted effort is needed to resolve this to ensure that people receive quality services. In line with this, the committee has demanded a detailed analysis of the successes and failures of the pilot phase of the electronic appointment system. The committee remains of the view that this system has a critical role to play in resolving queue challenges."
The committee also pushed the government to agree with labour unions to extend working hours to include Saturdays.
"The committee has called on the department to continue engagements with the unions to ensure that a solution to this impasse is reached. Furthermore, due to ongoing discussions with labour unions, the department will table the Home Affairs Bill, which will pave the way for extended and Saturday working hours," Chabane said.
Home Affairs is currently piloting an electronic system at select branches which allows users to book an appointment at a branch without standing in queues.
The system, currently 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 and an expected start and end time.
Responding in a recent parliamentary Q&A, Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi said the Branch Appointment Booking System would be piloted at some live capture offices for Smart ID Card and Passports applications and the collections of both documents during the 2021/22 financial year.
Motsoaledi added that the system would be rolled out to other identified high volume offices in the next years.