Nica Richards
Deputy online news editor
2 minute read
26 Apr 2021
11:34 am

Light at the end of DNA backlog tunnel

Nica Richards

New forensic exhibit management system tracks and traces functionality and completely replaces the previous system

Covid-19 a boon for healthcare and vaccine FEM went live on 6 April, and has already loaded around 10 million samples from the forensic laboratory administration system. Photo: iStock

After Police Minister Bheki Cele last month admitted to having sleepless nights because of the country’s DNA testing backlog, a statement released on Monday said Saps had made “great strides” in getting track and trace forensic exhibits up and running. 

The previous forensic system was shut down by the service provider in June last year. This resulted in the “disappearance” of millions of forensic exhibits from the national database. 

From June until April, exhibits could only be accessed manually, frustrating prosecutors dealing with cases of rape, murder and gender-based violence. 

ALSO READ: DNA backlog ‘absolutely not acceptable’, says Cele

New system 

Police and the State Information Technology Agency (Sita) have now developed a new forensic exhibit management (FEM) system, which tracks and traces functionality and completely replaces the previous system. 

“The FEM system can now speedily locate the source and storage of the forensic evidence,” SAPS spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo said. 

FEM went live on 6 April and has already loaded around 10 million samples from the forensic laboratory administration system. The system has also been loaded with nearly 25,000 new DNA exhibits. 

DNA backlog 

Not only were DNA exhibits unaccessible, but the system itself experienced a bottleneck of 170,000 samples. 

Police said this was because of a shortage of quantification kits. 

ALSO READ: Parliament ‘confident’ forensic DNA backlog will soon be resolved

Naidoo gave his assurance the police had finalised a two-year contract with a service provider to resolve this issue. 

Quantification kits will be validated over the next two months. In the interim, police said there were enough kits in  to last three months and enable new samples to continue to be collected. 

Naidoo said DNA samples needed for court cases, especially related to gender-based violence and identifying the deceased for burials, were being prioritised. 

Palpable results 

As an example of success, prioritising DNA samples resulted in a man being positively linked to 60 rape cases in the Benoni area on Friday. 

Police said the man was arrested earlier in April on a rape charge with evidence connecting him to 59 other cases. 

He will appear in the Benoni Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.