Home Affairs’ R2,6bn blunder
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.