Cele blames COVID-19 and finances for massive Forensic Science Lab backlog

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Financial constraints and the COVID-19 pandemic are the reasons for the police's National Forensic Science Laboratories (NFSL) shortages leading to a backlog, Police Minister Bheki Cele said in a reply to a parliamentary question. In November last year, he said it was due to “a lot of corruption”, reports News24 .

The NFSL didn't process any samples during January and February.In November 2020 the backlog was about 117 000 samples. Last week, it exceeded 170 000.

In a parliamentary question dated 11 February, DA MP Okkie Terblanche, a former police general, asked Cele if the NFSL is experiencing shortages in consumables, and if so, to provide the relevant details.

The answer, which has been signed by both Cele and Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole, states that the NFSL experienced a shortage of consumables in the 2019/2020 financial year, “due to financial constraints”. “However, in July 2020, an additional R250m was allocated to the Division Forensic Services,” reads the reply. The procurement processes for the consumables required to process DNA samples were then “activated”.

The NFSL's suppliers obtain the consumables from abroad. Potential suppliers must do a site visit and technicians must validate and test the consumables. “This process was prohibited during certain stages of the lockdown,” reads the reply.

DA MP and spokesperson on police Andrew Whitfield, who serves on the committee, said the DA will approach the SA Human Rights Commission.

 

Full News24 report (Open access)

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