Another injection of R250 million has been set aside to deal with procurement problems and clear SA’s massive DNA backlog of over 172 787 cases. This will include the processing of the National Prosecuting Authority’s priority cases, national police spokesperson Colonel Brenda Muridili announced last week.
Due to a dispute over costs, non-payments and an impasse between the SAPS and Forensic Data Analysts (FDA) the evidence tracking system for the entire police’s Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) — managing all evidence including PCEM (Property Control and Exhibit Management) — has been shut down in June 2020.
After gathering with relevant parties, the chairperson of the portfolio committee on police Tina Joemat-Pettersson in mid-March was confident that the issues will be resolved and a new internal system, developed by the State Information Technology Agency (Sita), will be online by 6 April 2021. Action Society could not yet confirm whether this is the case or whether the processing of DNA kits finally resumed after about 10 months.
“South Africans need to know what the current state of affairs is, since PCEM impacts the processing of all evidence, not just DNA. For the interim the police depended on a manual system, jeopardising all evidence because the recording of any handover processes are being handled by means of a paper register. There is no electronic way to confirm and ensure the chain of evidence is not broken,” Dr Rineé Pretorius, spokesperson for Action Society explains.
Cele on 10 March argued that the SAPS do not need the whole FDA system, as it will become obsolete. He said the police are working on developing their own system.
“Despite the National Treasury Chief Director, Laura Mseme, confirming the system was worth the R560 million, our government failed to make the payment and let them shut off a working system before a new plan was in place. They were granted R250 million in November to resolve the issue, and now given another R250 million. Instead of paying the outstanding money they are trying to reinvent the wheel and letting down the people of SA,” Pretorius says.
In November 2020 Cele admitted that the DNA backlog was a whopping 117 738 cases. By December this figure has grown to 142 504. At a Portfolio Committee on Police meeting on 2 March 2021 FSL head Major General Edward Ngokha confirmed that the backlog was at 172 787 and that nothing has been processed for the months of January or February.
“Due to government’s incompetence this figure is growing by at least 25% each month. Despite millions of crime victims waiting for justice to prevail, some people are waiting for DNA results before they are able to bury loved-ones,” Pretorius says.
Apart from the budgets there also seems to be a contradiction about the 8 million pieces of evidence being lost. On 10 March Cele admitted that 8 million samples cannot be traced because this system has been discontinued by FDA. Muridili last week denied this.
“In a country with a rape conviction rate of 7,8% we cannot accept that, for a negotiating period of over two years, government has put a price tag on an IT system needed to manage crucial evidence. How can the government allow for a working system to be switched off when no other plan is in place?” Pretorius asks.
ISSUED BY: Action Society
DATE: 12 April 2021
FOR MEDIA ENQUIRIES:
Dr. Rineé Pretorius
Spokesperson: Action Society
Cell: 083 507 7782
PR: Action Society
Cell: 081 233 8351