…By Joseph Benjamin for TDPel Media.
The Department of Transport in South Africa is seeking to procure new driving licence printers, with the tender closing on 5 May.
The country’s only driving licence card printer recently broke down after routine maintenance and will be out of action for at least two to three weeks as the replacement part needs to be imported.
The last time the printer broke down, the licence backlog increased and it became known that there was only one machine of its kind in the country.
However, the Department of Transport has reassured the public that this current breakdown will not affect licence production and urged people to apply for their cards as usual.
This is the second attempt to procure a new service provider for driving licence printing, with the tender closing on Friday.
The previous tender was advertised in November 2022 and closed just over a month later without any successful bidders.
The Department of Transport has stated that the country’s only driving licence card printer has always produced South Africa’s card, and if production was decentralised, it would further expose the system to corruption.
Transport spokesperson Collen Msibi explained to TimesLive that decentralising such a function was similar to decentralising the printing of money, which would open a back door for criminal elements.
The new printers that the Department of Transport plans to procure will have biometric data, holograms, and other safety features, and will also have a back-up system in place.
Analysis and Commentary
The breakdown of South Africa’s only driving licence card printer highlights the need for a more resilient and efficient system.
The fact that there is only one machine of its kind in the country is concerning, especially given the potential backlog that can occur when it breaks down.
It is encouraging that the Department of Transport is seeking new printers with improved safety features and a back-up system.
However, the Department’s reluctance to decentralise the production of driving licence cards is questionable.
While there is a risk of corruption, there is also a risk of centralisation.
If the sole machine breaks down or malfunctions, there is no back-up option available to keep production going.
Decentralising the production of driving licence cards across various locations in South Africa could provide a more resilient system that is less vulnerable to downtime and backlog.
In summary, while the procurement of new printers with improved safety features and a back-up system is a positive step, the Department of Transport should also consider exploring decentralisation as a means of improving the resilience and efficiency of the driving licence card production system.