Home Affairs plans to expand its Smart ID Card applications at bank branches by the end of October, following the success of the pilot project, Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Wednesday.

Since the partnership began in April, a total of 35 751 applications were submitted through the system known as “eHome Affairs”.

Negotiations are underway with the “big four” banks – Absa, Standard Bank, First National Bank and Nedbank – to expand the programme.

READ MORE: Local banks set to roll out Smart ID cards

Currently, the service is offered in 12 outlets in Gauteng and one in Canal Walk, Cape Town.

Gigaba said the project cut down on queues at Home Affairs offices, flushed out people with forged IDs, and allowed banks to reduce document fraud with their link to the Home Affairs database.

The eHome Affairs project also offers passport applications at the participating banks. The only service it cannot offer at present is first-time identity document applications. These still have to be done at a Home Affairs office.

Currently banks do not charge for the service, but could do so in future.

The eHome Affairs project will also deal with the backlog of converting the green identity document books to the Smart Card ID. Current projections are that the optimistic target of having everyone done by 2018 will be overshot by at least 17 years.

“It became clear that that timeline was completely misguided, even with the best intentions,” Gigaba said.

READ MORE: Smart ID card applications go online

“That is why we are so eager to conclude the public-private partnerships with participating banks to make the service available to everybody.”

Over five million people have their Smart Cards already, but 34 million still need to convert.

The cost to the department has been minimal because of the use of the banks’ facilities. Without extra budget, the department would not have been able to complete the conversions by itself.

Meanwhile, due to system maintenance and enhancements, Home Affairs will not offer Smart Card or passport services on Saturday 3 September.

– News24 Wire