Parliament slams National Forensic Laboratory for failing to provide accurate data on DNA backlog

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Forensic Science Laboratory

The Authority of the National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board has come under fire from the members of the Portfolio Committee on Police on the figures it presented about the DNA sample backlog.

The Committee criticises the board, saying it is presenting inaccurate figures about the backlog in DNA samples when the samples are a critical component in the fight against the scourge of gender-based violence crimes in the country.

The South African Police Forensic Science Laboratory says it has a backlog of thousands of DNA samples which it has to process and finalise by the end of next month.

The Laboratory briefs the committee on the backlog and accumulated DNA samples for the year under review, leaving members of parliament less than impressed and accusing the Board of contradicting itself as well as being ill-prepared.

Chairperson for the Portfolio Committee on Police, Tina Joemat-Peterson comments on how clearing the DNA backlog is essential as an issue of justice.

“From [victims of] gender-based violence to victims of murder, it is such a critical matter and we would not be able to see justice for any victim of crime if the matter of DNA is not solved.”

Addressing the sitting, retired police general and Member of Parliament for the Democratic Alliance, Okkie Terblanche blasted the Board for not being prepared with the correct statistics.

“They must come back well prepared with very very definite figures and no speculation. We don’t want to hear of what they think or speculate we are only interested in facts, chairperson. We cannot allow these serious crimes to go on amongst women and children unhindered.”

Members of Parliament want the backlog to be cleared as soon as possible saying this has a direct impact on the entire criminal justice value chain.

“Hoping that as they finish the backlog they won’t be flooded by other samples or cases that they have to attend to looking at the spate of crime violent crimes, GBV where little children and women are being killed almost every week. The provinces and detectives have to wait and submit to laboratories,” says African National Congress Member of Parliament, Gobonamang Marekwa.

The Portfolio Committee has asked the DNA Board to get its act together and present accurate information next time they appear before parliament.

The Forensic Science Laboratory of the South African Police Service was formed on 15 January 1971 and comprises 6 units handling – ballistics, scientific analysis, document analysis, biology services, chemistry services as well as explosives.