Department of Home Affairs
The Department of Home Affairs have 400 branches nationally. These offices provide direct over-the-counter service to the citizen. Being the custodians of identity in South Africa civic services include Passport and ID issuing, birth, death and marriage certificates and all manner of identity focused services.
Interfile was approached in 2006 to look at enhanced revenue collection for the department. At that point the revenue collection processes had been largely manual, error prone with limited controls. This was exposing the department to unnecessary fraud and intervention in the collection efforts. Reduced poorly reconciled collections were a great candidate for Interfiles automation technology which would tie together the various revenue collection disciplines and provide straight through processing for the department.
Government collection and reconciliation is highly complex with numerous governing actors and stakeholders who all require digital touchpoints for oversight of the entire collection process. Given the geographical footprint of the department also meant challenges with infrastructure and networking from remote and mobile units having to reach the most rural of environments. The project would involve the department, the South African Reserve Bank, all four major commercial banks, the accountant general and National Treasury Basic Accounting System (BAS).
The department at the time was also only accepting cash payments in the branches. This of course represented increased security risks for the branches and the citizen. Whilst there were obvious payment alternatives this would mean co-ordinating all role players to make system changes right across the National Government payment landscape in order to effectively co-ordinate an “end to end” reconciliation effort.
Given the departments challenges with issuing 40 000 000 new ID cards to the market with only four hundred branches. The department sought the assistance of the South African Banks to leverage their branch infrastructure to all online applications which could be fulfilled in the Bank branches across South Africa
Interfile was in a unique position to offer our technology and automation to the problem domain, having been pioneers in digital collection for numerous years and having designed highly successful occasionally connected technology. Interfile could address the infrastructure issues and deliver a lightweight rapidly deployable over the counter solution. InterCash (then branded the Invoice and Receipting engine) provided branch front end to the Home Affairs offices which offered key feature that addressed the problem domain, including:
- Offline capability (continue transacting without the presence of network)
- Branch management
- Shift Management
- Blind Cash up/ Double blind cash up
- Supervisor Override
- Day end and reconciliation
Interfile was able to analyse the current revenue flow from commercial banks to the South African Reserve Bank, through the accountant general and ultimately into National Treasuries Basic Accounting System (BAS). This involved programmatic changes to the payments system of South Africa. which included co-ordinating referencing across multiple complex and often legacy systems, resulting in the first National department capable of straight through processing to the government system of record, allowing customers to pay online, utilise credit and debit card services as well as continuing to support cash where necessary. The system supports ethical screens across the environment with full audit trail and remote administration capability allowing the Department visibility across all branches at any time during the online day.
In rolling out the Bank branch functionality, Interfile took the key responsibility of reconciling each of these touch points including the online e-channel environment through the Government reconciliation process, moving DHA from a cash only environment to real time acceptance of card and EFT transactions across a multi-banked landscape against a multitude of core systems of record.
Rolling out revenue collection in a completely paper based environment which had been a soft target for fraud attempts, error prone and particularly administration intensive, came with multiple challenges:
- Change Management
- Multi-Stakeholder and Multi-Vendor Management
- Business process re-engineering
The environment suffered much mal-administration and limited controls, the introduction of software to control and manage the workflow of the branches was met with substantial resistance this meant extensive and well managed training for the revenue teams in the various locales and handling incumbent vendors resistant to change in the reconciliation lifecycle.
Many of the systems requiring modernisation were legacy and often over 30 years old, as a result domain expertise was a scarcity. Interfile had to conduct numerous workshops with multiple stakeholders to identify where changes would be necessary and pin-pointing the locale that these changes would be made, identifying the least risk alterations within a highly complex and high volume environment.
Dealing with large financial institutions each with their own competitive objectives, co-ordinating and managing all these organisation towards a single vision, delivering efficient straight through processing for the Department and delivering a frictionless process to the South African Citizen.
Interfile had to re-engineer ethical screens within the software process flow to ensure tighter controls on revenue management and throughput in the branch, Introducing complex business workflows like blind cash-ups and routine electronic branch day-ends meant considerable changes to the running of the branches at every level from cashier to supervisor to branch manager.
The contract is ongoing and continues to present new challenges and modernisation obstacles which require changes and new systems being put in place. Interfile gained even greater insight into the payment eco-system in public sector and is very proud to have had the opportunity to modernise it, offer cash alternatives and considerably improved experience for the citizen.
There is still much that can be done to further enhance the process, not just for the Department of Home Affairs but right across National government who need to offer modern payment instruments whilst still remaining compliant to Treasury SCOA (Standard Chart of Accounts) regulations. Many departments can benefit from the work that Interfile has done with Home Affairs and National Treasury. We have laid a foundation that provides a blueprint for implementing citizen facing services which are more efficient whilst masking the complexity required internally in government.