FDA threatens to 'collapse criminal justice system'
A supplier to the police alleged to have bribed former acting police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane threatened to bring the criminal justice system to a halt if he didn’t get paid by midnight on Wednesday.
Forensic Data Analysis (FDA), a company owned by former policeman turned businessman Keith Keating, issued a statement at about 19:50 on Wednesday evening, saying that on “Wednesday, 4 April 2018, at midnight, use of and access to proprietary licensed software and ancillary support services in respect of PCEM (Property Control and Exhibit Management) and FPS (Firearm Permit System) will unfortunately be suspended by FDA, unless an appropriate agreement could be reached with SAPS before system shutdown.”
“The Minister, SAPS and other stakeholders have been duly warned about the risks involved, but have acquiesced regardless of the impacts,” reads the statement.
According to FDA, they have provided PCEM services to the police while the police did not pay any of the invoices issued to it from December 1 until March 31.
“In respect of FPS, SITA has on 31 October 2017 awarded a contract for three years to FDA, subject to the conclusion of a written agreement. FDA signed the written agreement provided to it by SITA. However, SITA has to the best of FDA’s knowledge failed to sign the written agreement providing for FPS services from 1 November 2017,” reads the statement.
“Notwithstanding SITA’s failure, FDA has rendered the FPS services since 1 November 2017 without any payment by SITA whatsoever. Although SITA has enjoyed the full benefit of services rendered by FDA since 1 November 2017, SITA has failed to make any payment to FDA.”
SITA is the State Information Technology Agency, the state agency which procures information technology for the state.
According to FDA the police and SITA “unlawfully” withheld payment for services rendered, and have “reconciled themselves with the following imminent devastating effects resulting from their conduct”.
According to FDA, the following can happen:
- Police officials may be unable to check in and out of duty;
- Police officers may be unable to lawfully possess or use firearms;
- Firearms and ammunition in possession of SAPS may not be accounted for during the suspension period;
- Police officials may be unable to access and manage evidence in the Forensic Science Laboratory;
- The chain of custody may be broken of millions of exhibits in the Forensic Science Laboratory;
- The NPA may be unable to remove evidence to be used in court proceedings;
- South Africa may be in breach of certain international treaties involving Interpol and the United Nations.
“The above list is not exhaustive,” the statement reads.
The police are, however, confident that their systems will not be affected.
“FDA has a contract with SITA and the matter of payment or nonpayment should be discussed with them. As SAPS we are confident our systems will not be affected,” police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said.
Police Minister Bheki Cele said although such matters were not reported to him directly, he was aware of the situation. “What I know is that negotiations are underway,” he told News24.
SITA could not be reached for comment.
This matter has its genesis in a dramatic meeting of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on November 29, where the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), recommended that the police stop paying FDA, a view which was shared by Scopa.
At that meeting it emerged that the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) awarded a contract for police forensic equipment, mostly lights and Nikon cameras, worth more than R900m to Keating’s company FDA, and a contract to another Keating-linked company for the maintenance of this equipment, without following procurement processes and without there being a reason for FDA being the sole provider.
Much to MPs’ disgust, Keating sat behind them, directly in the line of sight of the police officers and SITA officials as MPs grilled them on the contract. DA MP Tim Brauteseth, who produced pictures of Keating with two police officers from the police’s supply chain management department in personalised Manchester United jerseys in the football club’s trophy room and outside their storied ground Old Trafford. The pictures were taken in October 2011, months after the contract for the forensic equipment has been awarded to FDA.
It was also said that FDA did business worth R5 billion with the police since 2010.
In December Keating denied these allegations, and said it is part of an attempted hostile takeover of his business.
He is also a central figure in the corruption case against Phahlane which is currently before the court. He allegedly paid for Phahlane’s vehicles.
On February 28 this year Scopa said it “is appalled that a sole company owned by an ex-policeman can hold the whole country to ransom by threatening the collapse of the criminal justice system if the state cancels this contract”. It instructed SITA to cancel the contract.
It has not yet been confirmed whether the system has been switched off, or if the system that Keating sold SAPs was faulty. The police have not yet released a statement.
This is a developing story — News24