The so-called “DNA Bill”, the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill, has been adopted by the National Assembly’s oversight committee, paving the way to it being signed into law.
Speaking to the committee last week, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa says the investments made into the South African Police Service (SAPS) Forensic Services are yielding returns.
Mthethwa says these positive results have also improved service delivery and have enhanced the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system.
The Forensic Services Division has a new turnaround strategy, which focuses on increased capacity to enable the appointment of forensic analysts; crime scene examiners; development and enhancement of skills and competencies in the core business of the division; optimal utilisation of resources and procurement of physical and technological resources, including optimised business processes.
Mthethwa told MPs that the division has grown from a staff complement of 6 098 in the 2010/11 financial year to 7 450 as at 5 August 2013.
In their goal of bringing forensic services closer to communities, forensic services have further decentralised the forensic biology capacity to the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal based forensic science laboratories.
“It is also eminent from the statistics provided that there has been a consistent increase in the number of cases received by the laboratories, but also an equivalent increase in the number of cases finalised. This achievement can also be attributed to better management of resources within the forensic disciplines,” says Mthethwa.
In an effort to modernise the business systems, Mthethwa says the SAPS was deploying advanced technology in key areas to ensure improved turnaround times.
“In July 2012, we opened a state-of-the art laboratory in Plattekloof as part of this improvement and capacity drive. The modern design and technologies deployed greatly impact on the improved turnaround times of cases, particularly cases handled in the Western Cape laboratory,” says the minister.
With the DNA Bill under discussion by the Portfolio Committee of Police, the Forensic Services Division continued to benchmark best practices with their peers in the field to ensure the smooth implementation of the Act once it is passed into law, Mthethwa says.
This was of particular importance in the entire value chain, which spans from crime scenes to court processes.
The forensic DNA Laboratory is gearing up for the anticipated marked increases in the volumes of cases to be destined for forensic DNA analysis as a result of the provisions of this Act.