Police Minister, Bheki Cele, says the problem of DNA evidence sample backlogs at the National Forensic Science Laboratory is being urgently addressed. Cele says a government IT company has been appointed to track and trace samples.
He says the samples were traced manually in the past, but the new digital system is able to trace seven to 8 000 samples a week.
Police management told Parliament’s portfolio committee recently that backlogs at the National Forensic Science Laboratory stood at over 173 000 cases.
Cele says the matter has been given an urgent attention.
He says, “173 000 are not done, are deposited but are at backlog but the problem there has been the none purchase and the expire of the contract, that you buy what is called as consumables, DNA consumables. DNA consumables have been bought. We have bought about 200 consumables of them that will take us four months to deal with the backlogs.”
Cele says that in the last three weeks they have been able to trace 26 400 DNA samples.
“Which is an improvement because we used to trace 1 000 a week, we are tracing 7 -8 000 a week. That system has been put in place by Seta which is a government system, in a much cheaper way.”
Cele says the new system helps in bringing the perpetrators of crime to book.
He says last week a man linked to 60 rape cases was arrested as a result of the new system:
The Police Minister says heads will roll at the National Forensic Science Laboratory over the backlogs. Cele says those who were in charge at the laboratory should take full responsibility of the current situation.
“The consequence management must always happen. For instance one thing that we have done there is a new management altogether in the supply chain management. People that were there have been taken out. But the question stands are we putting this consequential management. Is there somebody taking responsibility and if not are the heads rolling? No doubt that will have to happen,” he adds.
Cele’s remarks come after families of rape survivors raised concern over the backlogs, saying the snail pace in the processing of DNA evidence samples is preventing justice from taking its course.
Member of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police, Andrew Whitfield, raised the alarm on this in 2019 when he discovered a shortage of rape kits at police stations.