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KwaZulu-Natal - Hundreds of guns from police station exhibit rooms across KwaZulu-Natal are missing or unaccounted for because of poor record keeping, an audit has found.
The preliminary findings of the check have prompted provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye Ngobeni to put a task team in place to monitor the 184 stations in KZN to ensure their gun files are in order.
Sources claim that at some stations more than 100 guns are reported missing or unaccounted for from the exhibit rooms, which are referred to as SAP 13.
Guns that are seized from unlicensed owners, used to commit crimes and those stolen and recovered, are kept in the SAP 13.
At Berea police station, it is understood that more than 80 firearms cannot be accounted for; about 100 are believed to be missing from Greenwood Park and Umbumbulu; and 50 from uMlazi.
KZN police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker said processes were under way to follow the paper trail of these guns.
Rudolph Zinn, a lecturer at the the School of Criminal Justice and Police Practice at Unisa, said whether the guns were missing or unaccounted for, was of serious concern.
“The police standing orders are very clear on the SAP 13. All guns must be kept in a gun safe,” Zinn said.
“The SAP 13 is the direct responsibility of the station commander. He or she must have a proper record of all items in the exhibit room. A paper trail is vital, especially for exhibits that are used in court.
“If an exhibit is presented as evidence in court, the investigating officer has to show who received it, when it went for ballistics, when it was returned to the station, and so on. If the paper trail is not in order, the exhibit cannot be admissible as evidence.”
Zinn said if a single gun had been used to commit multiple serious and violent crimes, and there was no proper record keeping, it could spell disaster for the case.
He said the standing orders also prescribed that station commanders conduct an inspection of the SAP 13 Register, at least once a month.
“It is clear someone has not been doing their job.
“If the record registers were in order, the audit would have come up clean,” Zinn said. Naicker said the provincial police inspectorate was regularly tasked with carrying out inspections at stations, including the SAP 13.
He said each station was duty-bound to safeguard all guns handed in as exhibits.
“Files are kept of all firearms in police custody. When an inspection is carried out, and a firearm is not physically at the station, the inspectorate department will inspect its file,” he said.
“If proper record keeping is in place, the file will indicate if the firearm was sent to ballistics/forensics, destroyed by the SAPS or handed back to the lawful owner.
“In many cases, however, the relevant supporting documents are not filed in the guns file, therefore inspecting officers cannot confirm how the gun was disposed of,” Naicker said.
He said as a formality a docket was opened for the loss of these guns and the station was given time to finalise the administration of files.
Clarity on whether guns were actually missing could only be determined once the administration process was finalised.
But, once an audit was completed and clarity still could not be obtained to indicate how a gun was disposed of, then the member who was responsible for the safeguarding of that gun would be charged – criminally and departmentally, said Naicker.
He said while the findings of the audit were being viewed in a very serious light, they had no doubt that poor administrative processes were to blame for the missing guns.
“We are convinced that these firearms were properly disposed off,” he said.
“We are also following the paper trail, together with the computerised firearm system. This will also give us an indication as to how these firearms were disposed off.”
Ngobeni, said station commanders were ultimately responsible.
“While we are convinced that ultimately these stations will be able to account for the disposal of these firearms, heads must roll for the poor record keeping,” she said.
“The buck stops at the station commander’s desk.”
Ngobeni said that in some instances, disciplinary steps had already been taken against certain individuals for dereliction of duties.
“We will ensure that with regular auditing the administration processes with regards to these firearms will never be neglected in future.” - Daily News