A new service provider has been appointed to supply kits for the DNA testing, SAPS confirmed. (Getty Images)
- DNA testing is expected to resume after it came to a halt earlier this year.
- A new service provider has been appointed to supply kits for tests, according to police.
- The police have also launched a system to track and trace forensic evidence.
The system used to track and trace forensic evidence in police investigations is “fully up and running”, according to the police.
It was reported that police “lost” about eight million pieces of evidence after IT service provider Forensic Data Analysts (FDA) shut down their Property Control and Exhibit Management (PCEM) system in June 2020.
But police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said on Monday that the exhibits were not lost. Instead, the exhibits had been stored and could only be accessed manually.
The dispute with FDA dates back to 2017 and includes allegations that the police and State Information Technology Agency (SITA) failed to pay it. Since then, the state’s attempts to end the FDA contracts by convincing the courts that the state, rather than the FDA, was the intellectual owner of the software, were unsuccessful.
Over two years, the parties met nine times in court and three times out of court.
After the state failed to comply with one of the agreements, the FDA finally shut down the computer systems.
System is live
The SAPS has been working with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) to develop a new Forensic Exhibit Management (FEM) System.
“This new system, which also has a track and trace functionality, replaced the previous system run by the service provider. The FEM system can now speedily locate the source and storage of the forensic evidence,” Naidoo said.
The FEM system went live on 6 April, and about 10 million samples from the Forensic Laboratory Administration System have been loaded into the system. Nearly 25 000 new exhibits have also been loaded into this system, he said.
And, to address the backlog in DNA testing, the SAPS finalised a two-year contract with a service provider for quantification kits.
“The testing of specimens for DNA also reached a bottleneck which resulted in an accumulative backlog of over 170 000 samples. This emanated from the shortage of quantification kits or so called ‘DNA consumables’ that are essential for DNA testing at the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratories,” Naidoo added.
A validation process is expected to conclude in the next two months, and until this is confirmed, police will rely on quantification kits procured on a quotation basis to last at least three months.
“The SAPS management will like to assure the nation that while the backlog in the Forensic Laboratories is being dealt with the urgency it deserves. DNA samples required for court cases, especially [those] related to gender-based violence, as well as DNA samples needed for identification of persons for burials are being prioritised,” he said.
In November 2020, Police Minister Bheki Cele told the Portfolio Committee on Police that the DNA testing backlog was 117 738 cases, News24 previously reported.
The number grew to 172 787 cases by the beginning of March this year, Major General Edward Ngokha, the head of the National Forensic Science Laboratories (NFSL), told the committee.
He added that the NFSL had not done any processing in January and February.
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