Bheki Cele blames consumables for DNA results backlogs
Cape Town - Police Minister Bheki Cele has blamed shortages in consumables for DNA analysis and delays in awarding tenders for the massive backlogs at the police forensic laboratories.
This takes place as the awarding of a R12.2 million tender for the Eastern Cape laboratory hangs in the balance and its funds face the prospect of being forfeited to the National Treasury due to failure to spend within the stipulated time.
Cele said the police are saddled with 172 787 outstanding DNA results, as at February, dating as far back as April 2019.
The forensic laboratories’ headquarters in Pretoria have 108 259 cases of DNA test results backlogs, Western Cape 56 647, KwaZulu-Natal 4537 and Eastern Cape 3344.
Cele revealed this when he was responding in writing to parliamentary questions from Freedom Front Plus MP Petrus Groenewald, who asked about the backlogs in light of the violence against women and children, especially sexual offences.
Groenewald also asked about the extent of the shortage of reagents, which are reactant chemicals, in each of the four forensic laboratories and the reason for the shortages.
In his written response, Cele said the shortage in consumables was mostly within the DNA analysis processing environment.
“The consumables to do DNA analysis and specific consumables related to the kits are not available,” said Cele.
In the Western Cape, shortages were experienced with quantification kits, amplification kits and direct amplification kits for DNA analysis of buccal samples.
There were also shortages in quantification kits and amplification kits for DNA analysis of buccal samples in Pretoria.
“Challenges are also experienced in the procurement of certain PPE, for example, gloves due to price changes and longer lead times.”
Cele also said there were outstanding tenders for the consumables, the service, the maintenance and the calibration of equipment.
There were three related tenders that were still to be awarded and another in the Eastern Cape.
The police minister said the tender for the Eastern Cape laboratory, that was advertised in September 2020, was going through final stages of evaluation before a possible recommendation for an award.
The National Treasury approved R12 250 000 in funding to support and enhance the forensic and laboratory services in the 2020/21 financial year.
“The demand processes were not concluded and the funding was not utilised for any other purposes as it was earmarked by the National Treasury for a specific purpose.
“A request to roll over the unspent funding to the 2020-21 financial year may be considered by the SAPS should such a request be in compliance with Treasury regulation,” Cele said in response to separate questions from DA MP Nazley Khan Sharif.
Meanwhile, the minister revealed in his response to DA MP Andrew Whitfield that the property control and exhibit management system (PCEM) has been off-line since June 2020.
“The PCEM was used by the SAPS to track and trace, manage and control cases filed and exhibits which were handed in for analysis and stored at the SAPS forensic science laboratories.”
The contract for the PCEM system, the annual software licence fee and maintenance support terminated in December 2018, June 2016 and June 2018, respectively.
Cele said SAPS and the State Information Technology Agency have enhanced an existing administration system to provide for the management and control of files and exhibits.