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HOME Affairs has launched a war on queues with the aim of improving services and to ensure citizens and other clients are served professionally when they seek access, in-person or digitally.
Minister Malusi Gigaba said while Home Affairs has had successes in reducing turnaround times for the production of documents, the critical challenge for them is to now reduce the amount of time clients spend in their branches.
He said there have been complaints of the period people spent at the Home Affairs offices and government has decided to act on the matter and address it accordingly.
“On 10 April 2018, we directed the Department to prepare an assessment report on how best to manage queues, to improve swiftly on the work we currently are doing. This task was prioritised, cognizant of the promise we made to provide services of a higher quality, better, faster and smarter,” he said.
“I have received the Assessment Report I had directed the Department to prepare. The Department is currently finalising the action plans to deal with problem areas identified. These would be rolled-out as short, medium and long-term interventions. The Report has identified those areas we think are behind this formidable challenge of queues. In terms of the report, long queues emanate from high client volumes, possible discontinuation of Saturday working hours, leadership issues and front office space,” he added.
The report further listed as causes of long queues, unstable systems (networks and applications), inefficient workflow process and uncoordinated communication strategies that lead to unsatisfied clients.
Other factors identified included, Poor management in some offices, ineffective utilization of staff, lack of an appointment system, inefficient management of queues, concurrent running of manual and automated systems, uneven distribution of offices based on demographics, misinformation on discontinuation of green barcoded IDs and poor signage at offices.
“At the moment, of the 411 Home Affairs offices nationally, only 184 are on Live Capture. Only these 184 offices are processing applications and collections of smart ID cards and passports while offering other services. In spite of these limitations and scarce resources and capacity, since the roll-out of smart ID cards in 2013, our offices have issued over 9 million cards. For example, the office here in Pretoria has produced 7000 cards in January as opposed to its operational capability of 3500 a month,” said Gigaba.
He said based on the identified problems, he has called for the implementation of actions in the short-term, some of which the Department is carrying-out already. He said a report on immediate interventions in Orlando West, Wynberg in Alexandra, Pietermaritzburg, Centurion, East London and Umgeni offices, showing reductions in waiting times and what has been done in ensuring people are not waiting outside offices to be served.
“Visits to the 4 offices by Executive Committee members and Provincial Managers. The pilot of a one-stop workstation that takes fingerprints and photographs, to streamline processes and reduce time clients spend in Home Affairs offices. The 78 mobile units are currently being refurbished and we are confident that during the second half of this year they will be deployed across the country. Some of the short-term actions are scheduled for roll-out from Monday, 23 April 2018,” said Gigaba.
He added that among other things, informed by the action plans the Department is finalising, they will commission a customer satisfaction survey, get the client contact centre working optimally, find a solution for unpredictable walk-in clients and for front office space, explore possibilities of a new shift system, attend to the unstable system, scale-up unannounced visits by senior managers to offices, improve workflow and beef-up communication with clients.
Gigaba admitted that the process would however not be a quick fix. He said the process was likely to take time before it could be rolled out.
“It is important to note these would not be quick fix interventions and thus plead for your patience while we implement these measures. Ultimately, to be able to serve all South Africans efficiently, we need to expand our footprint. This will need to be addressed through the budget process. To complement our office footprint, we are in the advanced stages of establishing a public-private partnership with the banking sector to roll out the ehomeaffairs service to branches of 4 major banks – Absa, FNB, Nedbank and Standard Bank – around the country over the next year,” he said.