Police question forensic supplies

Police commissioner Riah Phiyega. (David Harrison, M&G)

Police commissioner Riah Phiyega. (David Harrison, M&G)

A confidential police report leaked to amaBhungane has pointed a finger at a supplier of vital chemicals to the South African Police Service’s forensic division, suggesting it might be guilty of tender collusion. It also recommends that the South African Revenue Service and the treasury should investigate alleged irregularities.

The report says some of the chemicals supplied by the company, Crimetech Laboratories, might have been of a questionable standard and that the police should test them independently.

“The importance of this is obvious when taking into account the detrimental effect such products could have on the proper administration of justice,” it says.

It also reveals that at least 35 delivery notes for chemicals invoiced and paid for amounting to R12.8-million could not be found. Although this did not necessarily imply that the products were not delivered, it raised serious concerns.

Crimetech’s directors, Jolanta Komodolowicz and John Henry Deale, strongly denied any wrongdoing.
Komodolowicz also said, if the investigators had contacted her, she could have corrected their “misconceptions”.

Findings
The investigation, by CPN Forensic and Accounting Services, was ordered by national police commissioner Riah Phiyega after the police union Popcru levelled wide-ranging allegations against the forensic division.

Other findings of the investigation were that:

  • All local criminal record centres nationwide were overstocked with chemicals;
  • The KwaMhlanga record centre received large quantities of chemicals despite not having a laboratory, and faulty chemicals at Zamdela were removed by the supplier;
  • At another record centre, in Modimolle, chemicals were found with two different expiry dates. Komodolowicz said this could have happened because the product was retested and found to be still effective;
  • There was a dramatic increase in orders over three years from R9-million in 2010-2011 to R33.8-million the following year and R22.9-million in 2012-2013, and that orders multiplied before the expiry of contracts.

“It was noted during the analysis that the same items were ordered within very short intervals even before the previous order(s) have been fulfilled.”

Komodolowicz said: “The contract value increased due to offtake and not price increases. This is not in our control …”

Deale said everything the company had done was above board.

“I think they should go ahead with the [report’s] recommendations because that will clear up everything,” he said. “The fact that some delivery notes couldn’t be found at the time was because they were only put on record after the reconciliation with [Colonel Elro] Hanniball of the forensic services.

“Prior to that, a lot of documents got lost and we had to resupply … You can’t do business with the SAPS if everything is not in order.”

‘Misrepresentation’ 
The report calls for further investigation into possible tender collusion between Crimetech and another company, Kriminalistik.

It notes that, in 2011, the two companies provided the treasury with the same contact details and physical and private bag addresses. It adds that, on a quotation on March 14 2013, submitted by Kriminalistik, the registration of both companies was reflected, which, “in the absence of proof of an error, constitutes a misrepresentation”.

It also notes that Komodolowicz resigned as a director of Kriminalistik on February 7 2013 – the same day as her then 19-year-old daughter, Karolina Ewelina Dlugosz, took over from her.

In reply, Komodolowicz said: “I just gave it [Kriminalistik] to her because it was either for me to close the company or sell it to someone and here she was available.”

Komodolowicz said there could be no collusion because Crimetech and Kriminalistik had never tendered for the same contract.

“Crimetech is the only manufacturer of crime investigation products chemicals used in our forensic laboratories and on crime scenes in Africa,” she said. “Kriminalistik does laboratory repairs and supplies equipment.” She said the only contract that Kriminalistik ever had with the police was for the supply of batteries and CD and DVD disks in 2008.

Last week, police spokesperson Solomon Makgale said Phiyega was still waiting for input from the parties implicated by the report before deciding on what action to take. He did not reply to questions emailed to him this week.

Also last week, amaBhungane revealed that impounded cocaine worth more than R720 000 disappeared from the police forensic division over three years without anyone being held to account.

* Got a tip-off for us about this story? Email amabhungane@mg.co.za

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for all our stories, activities and sources of funding.

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