Open home affairs offices on Saturdays to deal with queues: parliament
The issue of long queues at home affairs offices has been taken on as a ministerial priority, and parliament is determined to get the government to deal with the problem.
During its meeting on Tuesday, the portfolio committee on home affairs suggested that the department deal with the problem using a "holistic approach". This included using technological advances, the reintroduction of opening offices on Saturdays, reduction of downtime and the extension of the relationship with banks.
“The commitment to deal with this matter is appreciated. We will be able to gauge the impact with time. What the committee is interested in is to see the queues decreasing and our people receive quality of services,” said committee chair Bongani Bongo.
The committee was in agreement on the need to use technological advances, such as an online appointment system which will ensure clients arrive at the department when they are expected.
The committee said that while the use of technology might be a solution, it was aware of the challenges caused by the unreliable network provided by the State Information Technology Agency. This needed to be urgently resolved.
The committee also called for the extension of the department’s footprint in banking institutions to lighten the load on departmental offices. The department entered into a partnership with banks in 2015, where select bank branches can be used for smart ID card applications.
On Tuesday the committee also called for re-engagement with labour unions to resolve the impasse on the opening of home affairs offices on Saturdays, something which would alleviate weekday pressures on the offices.
The department suspended the opening of offices of Saturday following a dispute with unions.
The committee said a collaborative effort between the unions and the department was necessary to ensure the department’s effectiveness.
The committee said it had committed to engage the National Treasury on the issue of departmental funding.
The committee said the current footprint of the department was inadequate to service the current population and required the extension of its services, which would include opening more offices.
It said the rollout of mobile trucks, especially to rural areas, was highlighted as an area of focus.