Home Affairs eyes e-card passports


The Department of Home Affairs says passport e-cards will soon become a reality for South Africans.

Speaking at the annual GovTech conference, in Durban, this week, Sello Mmakau, acting CIO of the department, said everything is on track for the production and issuing of the electronic passport cards.

“We are just waiting for funds from the treasury for our passport e-cards. Everything is on track, the equipment is ready and waiting at the GPW [Government Printing Works],” he said.

Mmakau added that the implementation of online fingerprint verification and interface with passport processes had already improved turnaround times for its new secure document, ITWeb reports.

The system, which has been rolled out to over 277 Home Affairs offices and 45 mobile units across the country, would be expanded, he said.

The online verification systems are currently used for passport applications, late birth registrations, the issuance of temporary ID certificates, ID book re-issue applications and verification of information stored on the department’s systems by commercial organisations.

The department would now look at implementing the widespread roll-out of its commercial online verification system, he noted. The system was piloted in 2009 with seven banks, including the four major commercial groups, and the CEOs were “impressed” with the system, he explained.

While the recent cancellation of the smart ID card project had caused concern around the department’s ability to complete the project, the process will continue, said Mmakau.
“The process was stopped for various reasons, but it will continue and it still remains a priority of the department.”

Some of the challenges for the year were identifying fraud associated with ID books. Mmakau pointed out that the swapping of ID books and the assuming of another person’s identity continued to be a big problem.

Manual processes continued to be slow, he said. The department would aim to reduce the processing time required for the manual verification of passport applications and the re-issuing of ID books. Mmakau noted that 80% of the department’s budget went to IT-spend and that technology would be used to implement the department’s strategy.

These processes should not be lengthy, especially if records are already available on the Home Affairs National Identification System, which allows for speedy identification and verification, he concluded.

Home Affairs earlier this month told Parliament the new passport system, which includes enhancements such as the live capture of data and photographs as well as biometric access control was benchmarked “against the international standards, as enshrined in the prescripts of the International Aviation Organisation (ICAO).”

The department also declared the cost of the “Live Capture system” at R10 million for 40 offices and that of the biometric system at R29 million. The costs included training and the department says 850 staff are biometrically enrolled as operators.