South Africa’s big banks say they are continuing to work with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) on expanding the latter’s services to more bank branches, with several locations earmarked for this year.
The DHA and the banks have been negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) relating to a Public Private Partnership (PPP) Service Level Agreement (SLA) for several years.
The SLAs are tied to a pilot project where South Africans are able to access Home Affairs services at satellite branches at participating bank branches across the country.
Through the branches, South Africans are able to apply for, process and collect Smart IDs and passports, skipping the long queues and strained services levels that are often experienced at standard Home Affairs branches.
The period for the banking Home Affairs pilot ended in July 2022, but the banks agreed to extend the pilot to 31 March 2023. In November 2022, the department said that it hoped to have the MoU and SLAs signed by the deadline.
However, according to FNB, the participating banks and the Banking Association of South Africa have now agreed to extend the pilot to September 2023.
More branches, more services
Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi said that the department was aiming to open 43 more offices at bank branches in South Africa once the agreements were signed.
Lee-Anne van Zyl, CEO of FNB Points of Presence, said that the bank has identified several branches across the country to potentially scale the service, pending further consultations with the Department.
“We will continue to work closely with the Department as part of our efforts to help our customers access this important service,” she said.
Nedbank said that is also planning to scale up its operations once the agreements are signed.
“At Nedbank, we currently have five DHA sites and we plan on scaling up our rollout plans once the Public Private Partnership Service Level Agreement is agreed by the DHA,” it said.
“The service is extremely popular, and uptake continues to grow amongst our clients. Based on the feedback received, clients have expressed their excitement and are very positive, particularly regarding the convenience of the service.”
Nedbank said that clients are currently able to apply for an ID document at Nedbank branches that represent the DHA – but it anticipates that, once finalised, the SLA agreement may include expanded services for clients, irrespective of which bank the DHA site is associated with.
Standard Bank and Absa referred queries to the Department of Home Affairs. The department acknowledged receipt of the queries but did not provide a response by the time of publication.
The latest bank branch to open for Home Affairs services is Standard Bank, Kathu Mall, which opened at the end of 2022.
In the meantime, the department is also expanding its branch network to stand-alone offices at malls across the country, with a branch at Menlyn Mall opening in March 2023, and other malls planned to roll out in the coming months.
New branch to get your Smart ID and passport in South Africa launches today – more coming soon
Why the delays?
The department previously acknowledged that negotiations with the participating banks has been slow, largely due to hesitation over the reputational risk involved with extended periods of downtime with Home Affairs’ services.
“The banks have raised the State Information Technology Agency’s (SITA’s) turnaround times as a big reputation risk for them – and need assurances that their sites won’t be offline for longer periods,” the department said in November.
The DHA said that SITA had embarked on a R400 million upgrade of its core network which will take place over the next five years.
The upgrades will focus on replacing old equipment and expanding network capacity to ensure that there isn’t a fight among various DHA sites over the limited bandwidth.
Read: New branch to get your Smart ID and passport in South Africa launches today – more coming soon