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Backlogs and poor service at SAPS labs due to procurement, maintenance challenges – Cele

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Police Minister Bheki Cele has blamed the halting of the procurement of reagents and the maintenance of equipment by sole service providers for the poor performance of the police’s forensic laboratory services over the years.

The forensic science laboratory in Platterkloof that deals with a variety of forensic disciplines and evidence for court cases. Picture: Tracey Adams

POLICE Minister Bheki Cele has blamed the halting of the procurement of reagents and the maintenance of equipment by sole service providers for the poor performance of the SAPS’ forensic laboratory services over the years.

Cele was responding in writing to parliamentary questions from DA MP Okkie Terblanche, who asked for the reasons for the sharp decrease in the performance of the forensic science laboratories.

In May, the minister apologised to the victims of crime for the harm caused by the massive backlogs in processing DNA specimens in the forensic science laboratory services.

At the time, the backlog in the processing of DNA specimens stood at 208,291 cases. The number grew from 172,787 that was recorded in February and dated back to April 2019.

Cele said the problem started in 2017 when the procurement of reagents and maintenance of equipment by sole providers was halted in the forensic science laboratory and the local criminal record centre.

“This also meant that while procurement with these companies was halted, procurement of maintenance and reagents could not proceed as some contracts were still in place and therefore no other agreements could be entered into,” he said.

Cele said the closure of borders during the Covid-19 hard lockdown period made it difficult for special spare parts and consumables to enter the country last year, and the commitments for maintenance and delivery of DNA processing reagents were problematic to prospective bidders.

“The bidding process was also disrupted as committees could not meet as freely due to travel restrictions and social distancing,” he said.

Cele also said the maintenance of equipment delays were also due to the fact that the reagents needed to be tested and evaluated before the contracts were awarded.

“The contracts pertaining to some of the reagents were completed in January 2021. However, this was just some of the reagents and as an intertwined system, the processing of DNA can only fully occur when all the reagents are available,” he said.

The minister said the Covid-19 regulations had also affected the performance and service delivery of some of the sections of the forensic laboratory services.

“There was also a delay in the medical surveillance and vaccination of members during 2020,” he said.

Cele stated that the backlogs would be eradicated by the second quarter of 2022/23.

– POLITICAL BUREAU

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