Transcript copy: Launch of department of home affairs –South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) partnership to implement Online Fingerprint Verification in banks Sheraton hotel, Pretoria
8 Nov 2011
Comments by Home Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma:
The CEO of SABRIC Kalyani Pillay
Members of the SABRIC Board
Representatives of our partners in the banking industry
Senior management of the department
Ladies and gentlemen of the media
Fellow South Africans
Neil Armstrong, the American astronaut noted upon setting the first historic step on the moon in 1969, that it “was a small step for man but a giant step for mankind.” We are convinced that the step we today are undertaking jointly with our partners in the banking sector, indeed constitutes a giant step for all the people of our country.
Together with our partners in the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) we proudly present today to our people and the world - the first ever and historic Online Fingerprint Verification System hitherto unknown in our country.
We do so motivated by none other than a burning patriotic desire to deliver efficient, effective and quality services to all our people. We are of the firm view that this launch will add impetus to existing national efforts to help create a better life for all our people, today, tomorrow and forever!
This launch must communicate a positive message that working together with the private sector can we address challenges facing the majority of our people including the need to address poverty alleviation, under-development and ensure sustainable livelihoods for all our people.
In this regard, we are humbled and express our sincere appreciation to our partners in the South African Banking Risk Centre for the support and confidence they have demonstrated by entering into a partnership with Department of Home Affairs.
We equally, as government, through this partnership express our confidence in the South African banking system which has withered the storms of various stages of our economic development including, the recent global recession.
This partnership underlines the confidence of the banking industry in the Department of Home Affairs as a reliable partner in defence of our identity and the restoration of the citizenship of all South Africans. Today we can jointly and proudly ask our citizenry, How can we help you!
It is our conviction that the launch today of the Online Fingerprint Verification System has laid a firm foundation for an advance to a more strategic partnership between our Department of Home Affairs and the banking sector, today. Online Fingerprint Verification, Ke yona!
The launch today, comes against the background of national efforts to ensure the Department of Home Affairs takes its rightful place within the Justice and Crime Prevention Cluster (JCPS) of government while discharging its mandate as a security department
In this context, we are of the view that the launch of the Online Fingerprint Verification System, by the Department of Home Affairs and SABRIC will add to the already existing momentum to protect and defend our common identity - the heritage of all South Africans.
Indeed, we must always remain cognisant that our common identity was earned at great cost, and is due to the unflinching sacrifices of those who have come before us, with others having paid the supreme price for us to enjoy. We shall forever remain greatly indebted to these heroes and heroines of our people. In their memory, we must spare neither strength nor effort to protect and defend this hard-won gain.
Equally, the launch of the Online Fingerprint Verification System by the Home Affairs Department and SABRIC will lay a basis for us jointly to deal a massive and decisive blow against acts of fraud and corruption that have cost our financial and banking institutions millions if not billions of rand. Online Fingerprint Verification System is indeed a simple but sophisticated war against fraud and corruption
We acknowledge that acts of corruption and fraud will not disappear overnight but will most certainly lay a basis for a major offensive in our national effort to push back the frontiers of fraud and corruption. We can only succeed to the extent to which we receive co-operation from the broader citizenry.
In launching the Online Fingerprint Verification System, Home Affairs and SABRIC indeed contribute to a positive climate in which our citizenry are and feel safe in the knowledge that their savings, investments, deposits and hard-won earnings are indeed secure in the hands of the various banking institutions - FNB, ABSA, Nedbank, Standard Bank, Mercantile Bank, African Bank and Capitec Bank.
We take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the esteemed members of the Board of SABRIC, CEO and MD of our various banks for their co-operation and support in making the launch of the Online Fingerprint Verification System a success.
I would also like to add a special word of appreciation to those who have been committed to the implementation of this project.
I thank you.
Comments by SABRIC CEO Kalyani Pillay:
Good morning to everyone, Minister, all guests, the media.
I think the Minister has said it all but for us in the banking sector, and particularly SABRIC, we began this partnership with the Department of Home Affairs towards the end of 2009.
Today we stand here able to bring this to members of the public and say we are beginning to implement this system. We hear about people everywhere talk about strategies and plans but we most often fall short on the implementation side.
We are therefore very proud to stand here today to say we are beginning to implement. We began piloting and testing some of these issues in 2010. Our participating banks are ABSA, Nedbank, First National Bank, Standard Bank, African Bank. While not all are SABRIC clients, these are the banks that are participating at the moment and are at different stages of implementation at the moment.
ABSA Bank has started, FNB has followed and the other three banks are ready to implement. And certainly our bank clients will begin to experience having their identities verified. In terms of the current laws of the country, the bank has to ensure it obtains a confirmation of identification of their clients.
This is therefore a second layer of verification for the banks and also not only are the banks looking out for themselves, but they are also looking out for their clients. We have seen identity theft manifest itself in so many different types of crimes and particularly in our sector, the banking sector.
It is however a global problem and certainly in terms of crime prevention mechanisms, this is just one of the things the banks are doing to try and deal with identity theft and the crimes through which they manifest.
To the Department of Home Affairs, thank you once again. We are really pleased to have this partnership. Minister, I have said this before, people are often sceptical about engaging with government in projects, however, our experience in dealing and working with the department has been great.
We have not had a challenge too big, or an issue too small to receive the attention of both the department and the banks. I think it is a project that we can learn from. I think it is because everyone has been committed and dedicated to this project from the beginning.
The issue is about creating a safer South Africa. And from the banking sector, this is the contribution we can make towards ensuring clients have a safe banking experience.
The banks will be communicating the different procedures to their clients and what will be involved. This will not a time consuming or invasive experience and I think the bank clients are going to enjoy knowing, with some level of comfort that no one acquires banking facilities purporting to be who they are not and stealing other peoples identity.
So Minister, once again thank you very much. Thank you to the Department. The banks are really pleased about this partnership.
Questions and Answers:
Question: Are there figures to support claims of identity theft
Answer: (SABRIC CEO) ID theft itself is not a crime and people do not get prosecuted for ID theft. This however manifests itself in other sectors and in other crimes, it is also not applicable only to the banking sector. It would therefore be difficult to quantify the cases of ID theft and the number of crimes that has manifested itself in.
(Minister Dlamini Zuma) There has been enough fraud to make the banks and ourselves want to address it.
Question: Will this system be applicable only to South African citizens?
Answer: (Minister Dlamini Zuma) This service is available to anyone with an account at these banks and who also has fingerprints at Home Affairs. Some foreigners do have fingerprints at Home Affairs. But those who do not have fingerprints with Home Affairs will not be able to access this service.
Question: Will the banks have access to this system? Will they be able to access information only related to their clients or to the entire database? What assurances will we have that this information is protected?
Answer: (SABRIC CEO) The banks will not have access to data in the database. What they will have is the ability to verify the identity of a client through information in the database.
You will see this in the demonstration – the bank client will place their finger on a biometric reader – this information will then be sent through to the Department of Home Affairs and the results will come back as verified or not. The banks will not have access to any other data contained within the database.
(Minister Dlamini Zuma) Only Home Affairs is the custodian of the database. However, the client will produce his ID – although I can also produce your ID and make a transaction against your name.
The bank will now have the capacity to say this is your ID number but does the fingerprint on the card reader match this ID? This is all they will be able to do. If my fingerprint matches my ID, it will be verified. If there is no match, it will not be verified and further investigation is required.
The information we have is secure, it will not go to the banks. The information that the banks have is secure, it will not go to us.
Question: What safeguards will clients have that this information will not be passed on to other third parties?
Answer: (SABRIC CEO) As we have already indicated, no information from the Home Affairs database will be passed onto us. No information will be stored on the banks database from the Department of Home Affairs. Banks have very robust systems to ensure the integrity of their databases. They stop at nothing to ensure its security. No data from the Department of Home Affairs will be stored on the databases of the banks.
Question: Will this result in increased banking costs?
Answer: (SABRIC CEO) Of course there will be costs. But this is not a commercial venture – neither the Department of Home Affairs nor the banks want to make money from this venture. The banks have a number of crime fighting strategies in place which are already costed and this is one of these measures. The banks also have biometric technology in place and this one of these mechanisms.
I do not therefore think that bank clients should be concerned they will wake up to hear of huge increases in fees.
Question: What has the Department done to ensure all foreign nationals are also included in this system?
Answer: (Minister Dlamini Zuma) It will be desirable that we have the fingerprints of all citizens in South Africa on our database. We presently have the fingerprints of those citizens with permanent residence and refugees. We do not have fingerprints of people who are here on work permits.
It might therefore be a good idea for us to take their fingerprints because they do have accounts. But we will leave this to them, we will give them the choice to have their fingerprints taken. But all South Africans over the age of 16 should have fingerprints with us, as well as permanent and naturalized residents.
Question: In terms of access rights, what other government agencies will be able to access this system?
Answer: (Minister Dlamini Zuma) We already have some departments having access to our verification systems – for instance Social Development. They were having many instances of people claiming grants they were not entitled to and this technology has assisted them with this challenge. So, if they want to verify clients, they can. Other departments with this kind of challenge also have the opportunity to be able to verify clients.
I also just want to explain that if a citizen cannot be verified, it does not necessarily indicate fraud. It could just be that the fingerprints were taken a long time ago and there not clear when we converted them to our electronic database. All citizens need to do is to go to Home Affairs and have their fingerprints taken again.
In some instances this will be indicative of a deeper problem.
We hope that the banks will be able to inform us when a client has not been verified so we can begin to look into this matter more thoroughly. If there is evidence of ID theft we will endevour to catch these perpetrators.
Issued by: Department of Home Affairs
8 Nov 2011
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