DA: Govt unconcerned about problems at SAPS

New data shows the rot has set in at the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the government appears unconcerned to attend to the most fundamental problems, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Tuesday.

Replies to a number of parliamentary questions showed, among other things, that lost and stolen police case dockets were up 57% and sample backlogs at forensic science laboratories up by 105%, DA spokesperson Dianne Kohler Barnard said.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa’s reply to a written question regarding the newly established Hawks revealed that only 5% of Hawks employees had been vetted.

As many as 2 187 employees submitted applications, but only 118 so far had received clearance. At this rate of 24 per month, it would take seven years to vet all the applicants.

“While South Africa’s crime rate is worsening, we cannot allow administrative inefficiencies to further compromise our safety.”

On July 1, a total of 639 cases were transferred from the former Directorate of Special Operations to the new Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI).

It was reasonable to believe very little progress had been made on any of these cases if the staff compliment was this low.

The DA said police compliance with the recommendations of the watchdog Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) had dropped to 10%. The IDC made 1 212 recommendations to the SAPS last year and there was no response to 90% of these.

“Last year, the compliance rate stood at 58,1%, which means that we have witnessed a marked worsening of an already bad situation.

“Now we can see quite clearly that this administration has very little interest in ensuring proper police oversight,” Kohler Barnard said.

Another reply revealed that the backlog at forensic science laboratories had increased from 11 907 samples in September 2008 to 24 375 samples by August 2009—a 105% increase year-on-year.

Chemistry sample backlogs were up 80,4%, the backlog in scientific analysis by 526%, and whereas no ballistics backlog was recorded at this time last year, it now stood at 2 846 samples.

“It now takes, on average, more than five months for a biology sample to be processed by our forensic science laboratories.”

A total of 671 dockets were lost or stolen in 2008/09—up 57% from the 427 lost or stolen last year.

This, in turn, represented a 75% increase since 2005/06, when 382 dockets were lost or stolen.

Equally disturbing was the fact that in only five of the 671 cases, officers were dismissed for the loss of dockets, while only one-fifth of incidents resulted in any disciplinary action at all.

In sum, the figures showed the SAPS faced an array of severe challenges that simply were not being addressed.

Time and again safety experts, concerned citizens groups and the official opposition had raised concerns over the lack of action from the department in tackling basic problems in the police.

“What is quite clear is that the ANC government is totally unconcerned about sorting out the most fundamental problems in our SAPS,” Kohler-Barnard said.—Sapa

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