In 2021, the Department of Home Affairs said it wanted to expand its satellite branch strategy to at least 70 bank branches across the country, with the rollout expected to start on 1 July 2022.
However, over a month after the planned start date, there has been no word about new branches or services on offer, and local banks have been left on hold.
South Africa’s banks say they are keen to roll out Home Affairs services to more branches in the country, but they are still waiting for the DHA to sign service level agreements and lay out its strategy.
The banks which offer DHA services – including Standard Bank, Nedbank, Absa and FNB – said that there is a growing demand among their customers to make use of the satellite offices, and they remain engaged in discussions with the department on how to expand the services to more regions.
Nedbank told BusinessTech that the DHA services at its branches are incredibly popular and there is demand among its customer base for these to expand.
“We currently have five DHA sites, and we plan on scaling up our rollout plans once the Public Private Partnership Service Level Agreement (SLA) is agreed by the DHA,” the bank said. “The service is extremely popular, and uptake continues to grow amongst our clients.”
Nedbank said that customers are currently able to apply for an ID document at branches that represent the DHA. It anticipates that once finalised, the SLA agreement may include expanded services, irrespective of which bank the DHA site is associated with.
FNB said that it is continuing to work with the Department of Home Affairs to potentially extend the Smart IDs and Passports service to more branches.
Since the inception of its partnership with the department, the bank has issued approximately 370,000 Smart ID cards and passports.
The service is currently available in seven FNB branches in Gauteng, KZN, the Western Cape and Limpopo. The bank said it sees potential for expansion of DHA services to Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape.
“We believe that there is potential to scale the service even further to areas such as Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape. However, the feasibility of these locations is dependent on ongoing engagements with the Department of Home Affairs,” the bank said.
Absa, meanwhile, said it is also waiting on the department for guidance on any service expansion.
“We are in ongoing talks (with the DHA), including the possibility to expand on the current offerings. Part of the discussions with the DHA are to establish the length and breadth of the offering in South Africa,” Absa said.
Discussions with the DHA to expand Smart ID and passport services are also being managed at an industry level via the Banking Association of South Africa, it said.
Standard Bank said that queries regarding the rollout of more bank branches participating in DHA services should be directed to the department for insights, as it is up to the DHA to plot the path forward.
The department previously attributed the delay in bank branch expansions to a lack of available skills and staff to fill the positions.
Responding in a parliamentary Q&A in March 2022, minister Aaron Motsoaledi said his department and the country’s major banks have not signed the necessary Public-Private Partnership (PPP) due to a number of ‘pertinent issues’ that still need to be resolved.
These issues include:
“Currently, the civic services team is under-capacitated across Department of Home Affairs branches nationwide with no additional staff to send to the banks. This issue is applicable to all potential banks for further rollout of the service in question,” Motsoaledi said.
The department did not respond to queries about the delay in rolling out satellite offices to bank branches in the country, nor did it provide an update on how it was addressing the skills shortage.
At a press briefing about its new digitisation strategy, however, Motsoaledi said that the process of making it easier to service communities was ongoing, mentioning its partnership with the banks as one of the key measures in place to cut down queue times at offices.
Despite the hold-up, the department is also still moving forward with its service expansion and is anticipating the opening of DHA satellite branches in popular malls in September 2022.
“Since the malls still have to move some tenants around to make way for Home Affairs, we will install our equipment there around September this year. We shall start with the Menlyn Mall in Pretoria and then roll out to the rest,” the department said.
There are currently 26 bank branches in South Africa that provide DHA services, including Absa, Nedbank, Standard Bank, FNB, Discovery Bank and Investec. Capitec does not offer these services.
The below-mentioned branches do not allow for walk-ins and require an online application and booking process only.
Read: Home Affairs expands new online booking system in South Africa – and the bank branches where you can get your Smart ID and passport
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New bank branches for smart ID and passports in South Africa hit a roadblock – BusinessTech