Cops making 'great strides' in coming to grips with DNA backlog
Cape Town - The police management have confirmed that they have made “great strides” to overcome the backlog in DNA testing while the system to track and trace forensic exhibits was now fully up and running.
Police spokesperson Vish Naidoo said that followed a reported "disappearance" of millions of forensic exhibits at the National Forensic DNA Database due to the Property Control and Exhibit Management (PCEM) system being shut down by the service provider in June 2020.
Naidoo said in fact those exhibits were stored in the Forensic Service Laboratory Administration System and could only be accessed manually.
"Since then, the police have worked together with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and developed the 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," said Naidoo.
He said the system could now speedily locate the source and storage of the forensic evidence. The FEM system went live on April 6 and about 10 million samples from the Forensic Laboratory Admin System have been loaded into the system. where samples can be tracked and traced.
He said nearly 25 000 new exhibits have also been loaded into the system. "The testing of specimens for DNA also reached a bottleneck which resulted in an accumulative backlog of over 170 000 samples."
Naidoo said that emanated from the shortage of Quantification Kits or “DNA consumables” that were essential for DNA testing at the Forensic Science Laboratories.
Western Cape Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz commended the police for getting the FEM System up and running.
Fritz said they have been very vocal about the lack of information on actual progress on the matter, so they were now happy to receive news of the steps which have been taken.
“The news means that things are moving forward. It means practical steps have been taken towards diminishing and eradicating the backlog. At the same time, it is sobering that we first have to wait two months before a validation process of the Quantification Kits is concluded before any actual DNA exhibits are processed,” said Fritz.
He said they remained of the view that decentralising the processing of DNA exhibits and devolving the function to the police management at a provincial level, and even to other service providers, would lead to an even more efficient and effective system.
Parliament's portfolio committee on police, chairperson Tina Joemat-Pettersson, said the committee cannot comment on a press statement made by the police. She said they awaited a formal report from them.