Home Af­fairs’ R2,6bn blun­der

Finweek English Edition - - Communication & Technology - CHIMWEMWE MWANZA

GOV­ERN­MENT’S DE­CI­SION to award the R2,6bn “Who am I on­line” project to a private com­pany could prove costly to South Africa’s fight against iden­tity theft, an in­dus­try ex­pert warns, much as the project has the po­ten­tial to en­hance SA’s mori­bund Home Af­fairs De­part­ment’s turn­around times for pro­cess­ing iden­tity doc­u­ments.

Michael Crowley, Busi­ness Ob­jects Europe, Mid­dle East and Africa head, says the project isn’t en­tirely be­yond vul­ner­a­bil­ity. “Of course, there have been con­cerns raised about the value of the project – which some ob­servers sug­gest is in any case too high – but my ar­gu­ment is that Gov­ern­ment shouldn’t in the first place have sub-con­tracted such a sen­si­tive project to a private com­pany.”

With iden­tity theft be­ing the white col­lar crime of choice in SA, Crowley warns that mil­lions of in­di­vid­u­als’ per­sonal de­tails could end up in the hands of crime syn­di­cates. The Con­sumer Profile Bureau says iden­tity theft cost SA’s econ­omy more than R1bn last year.

Says Crowley: “It all de­pends on how se­cure the process of digi­tis­ing in­di­vid­ual in­for­ma­tion will be. Oth­er­wise, the best op­tion would have been to strengthen Home Af­fairs’ IT di­vi­sion and then per­haps en­gage the private sec­tor in a con­sult­ing role.”

The con­tract – awarded to IT group Gi­ji­maAst – will give the de­part­ment ac­cess to two core sys­tems at branch of­fice and field team level. The sys­tems are the Na­tional Pop­u­la­tion Reg­is­ter and the Home Af­fairs Na­tional In­for­ma­tion Sys­tems, both cur­rently only ac­ces­si­ble to of­fi­cials at the de­part­ment’s head of­fice in Pre­to­ria, re­sult­ing in doc­u­men­ta­tion tak­ing at least a week to is­sue.

How­ever, with pos­i­tive bio­met­ric ver­i­fi­ca­tion at Home Af­fairs of­fices coun­try­wide, tem­po­rary iden­tity doc­u­ments could be is­sued im­me­di­ately.

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