South Africa’s DNA testing backlog 117 000 and climbing

The Democratic Alliance has requested National Police Commissioner, General Kehla Sitole, to urgently investigate partnerships with private laboratories to tackle the backlog of 117 736 DNA samples at the National Forensic Science Laboratories.

“It has become clear that SAPS has mismanaged the supply chain processes leading to a disruption in the award of contracts bringing testing to a halt.

Shortages in consumables and reagent, while currently being addressed, have been a major problem since the 2nd quarter of the 2019/20 financial year,” said Andrew Whitfield, the DA Shadow Minister of Police.

“Without these critical consumables and reagent no DNA testing can be done. To make matters worse SAPS has allowed the maintenance contract for sensitive robotics and other specialised equipment at the Western Cape laboratory to lapse. These machines cannot be used until they are calibrated to the correct standard.

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SAPS must now urgently explore partnerships with well equipped private laboratories to assist, where possible, in dealing with the backlog in DNA testing. Every day more and more DNA case exhibits arrive at our labs and every day the backlog becomes even more insurmountable.

The victims and families of victims are left suffering waiting for answers while the perpetrators of violent crimes roam free, in many cases committing further crimes.

DNA remains the most critical piece of evidence in the criminal justice value chain and it must be treated as a priority by ensuring that backlogs of this nature never occur again,” added Whitfield.

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