Parliament’s portfolio committee on police on Thursday said it was confident that the longstanding backlog of DNA results and state of dysfunction of the police National Forensic Science Laboratories (NFSL) would soon be resolved.
Earlier this month, members of the committee were informed that the NFSL had not processed a single forensic exhibit in January and February this year. This frustrated prosecutors as some long standing court cases of rape, murder and gender-based violence remained unresolved.
The forensic head at the South African Police Service (Saps) Major-General Edward Ngokha said the backlog stood at over 142 504 cases that were yet to be processed. Civil rights group Action Society lodged a complaint with the Office of the Public Protector over the backlog of unprocessed DNA tests.
The chair of the police committee, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, said they had engaged with the management of the Saps and the State Information Technology Agency (Sita) with the aim of finding workable solutions to the DNA backlog.
“Following the fruitful engagement, we are now confident that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The commitments we received here are a first step towards ensuring justice to victims of gender-based violence,” Joemat-Pettersson said in a statement.
She said the committee was satisfied that there is a commitment to establishing a conducive working relationship between the Saps and Sita, which would ensure collaboration in developing an alternative solution to the Property Control and Exhibit Management information system.
Joemat-Pettersson reiterated the committee’s call that lengthy litigation is an unnecessary cost burden to the fiscus, which should be avoided at all cost.
“The state’s finances are better directed at delivering quality service delivery to the people of this country. The criminal justice system will be better served by a Forensic Science Laboratory functioning optimally to ensure that prosecutions are scientific, evidence-based and timely,” she said.
At the same time, the committee’s spokesperson, Malatswa Molepo, said phase one of the project had been concluded.
“This phase includes the activation of legacy and case information updates, barcode activation and measures to improve barcode search function.
“The offer by National Treasury to assist both Saps and Sita will ensure the successful completion of clearing the DNA backlog and migration towards an internal system,” Molepo said.
“All stakeholders should work collaboratively and share technical skills if Saps is to be successfully weaned from external service providers, especially in critical areas of work. The committee is particularly satisfied that the new internal system developed by Sita will come online on 6 April 2021.”
The committee also welcomed the Presidency’s initiative to identify potential private-public partnerships to assist with the processing of forensic exhibits.
“The committee will, for its part, monitor the implementation of the forensic service action plan, as well as the development of the forensic exhibit management module. The matter will remain on the committee’s radar until it is concluded.”